Edwards 'inclined' to seek death penalty on alleged Dougherty cop killer

Dontravius Thomas

Dontravius Thomas

ALBANY, Ga. -- Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards said in an interview with The Herald Monday that he is "inclined" to pursue the death penalty against the suspect who is charged with killing a Dougherty County Police officer, but Edwards has yet to make a formal decision.

Dontravious Raynard Thomas, 20, is accused of murder in the shooting death of Dougherty County Police Lt. Clifford Rouse, who was shot while responding to the report of an armed robbery at a convenience store in December.

While Edwards said that he has made no formal decision and is still mulling his options, he is "inclined" to pursue the death penalty given the gravity of the offense.

"My inclination is to do it. It is statutorily allowed," Edwards said. "Not every homicide is a matter in which the death penalty can be sought; certain statutory circumstances must exist before we can move forward. With this case, those circumstances are there."

Thomas is charged with shooting Rouse Dec. 23 as Rouse was responding to a report of an armed robbery. The DCP officer was shot in the abdomen below his bullet-proof vest and died later that evening.

Under Georgia law, district attorneys can seek the death penalty if certain criteria are met, Edwards said.

The criteria include crimes in which a death is caused during the commission of another capital or major felony, acts of wanton, vile or outrageous violence, or for the killing of a police officer, judge or officer of the court during the commission of their duties.

But other factors enter into the decision, Edwards said.

"For one, we have to consider the family of the victim," he said. "We have to make sure that they're prepared to stay in it for the long haul ... because death penalty cases are particularly involved, and if the sentence is imposed it can drag out for even longer periods of time before the sentence is actually carried out.

"That can be a long time for a family to have to wait for justice when you consider a sentence of life without parole," he said.

Should Edwards pursue the death penalty against Thomas, it would mean that the Dougherty District Attorney's Office would have two capital cases going on at the same time.

Edwards has already initiated death penalty proceedings against Allen Wade Robinson, the former Dougherty County jailer who fatally stabbed Rashonda Dowell in the parking lot of a Pic-N-Save store in November 2008.

If Edwards decides to pursue a capital case against Jordan Harris, the man accused of killing businessman and former Lee County Commissioner Walter Phelps, one more will be added to the list.

In Atlanta, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard has announced he will seek the death penalty against the suspect arrested for killing Georgia State Patrol Trooper Chad LeCroy just a few days after Rouse was killed.