What happened in the death of Alexia Christian?

APD Chief George Turner provided some additional details about the events surrounding Christian’s death


  • Joeff Davis
  • Atlanta Police Department Chief George Turner discusses with reporters what happened in the death of Alexia Christian

Alexia Christian, a 26-year-old African-American woman who was suspected of stealing an automobile, died yesterday in the custody of the Atlanta Police Department. That much we know. But questions remains as to what happened leading up to her death. How did she escape her handcuffs? Why did she have a gun in the back of a squad car? Were police justified to use deadly force?

APD Chief George Turner provided some additional details about the events surrounding Christian’s death, the second APD officer-involved shooting of 2015, at a press conference this afternoon. Investigators are continuing to collect information and have yet to interview the officers involved.

Around 4:30 p.m. yesterday, Turner said, APD officers Jeffery Cook and Omar Thyme, who are both black, responded to the suspected location of a stolen white Ford F-150 near Underground Atlanta. Fulton County Police Department had asked APD to check the area for the vehicle stolen from Fulton Industrial Parkway and driven to Downtown.

After approximately 20 minutes, the officers had located the truck in a parking deck near Pryor Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Christian was found in the back of the vehicle. According to Turner, the two officers arrested Christian, handcuffed her behind her back, and placed the suspect in the back of their squad car.

Turner said Christian, who had somehow slipped one hand out of a handcuff, fired a Taurus .380 pistol three times at the officers sitting in the front seat. Deputy Chief Darryl Tolleson said two of the three bullets penetrated the plexiglass inside the squad car and narrowly missed the officers.


  • Joeff Davis
  • APD Deputy Chief Darryl Tolleson explains how the bullets nearly missed the heads of Officers Jeffery Cook and Omar Thyme

“Both of these officers missed being killed by an inch on both sides,” Tolleson said. “One bullet hit a piece of metal right behind the officer where the plexiglass is mounted. The other one went through the plexiglass out the left front windshield. It’s a miracle both officers are alive.”

The officers then exited the vehicle and fired a total of 10 shots at Christian. The female suspect later died at Grady Memorial Hospital. How Christian got one hand out of her restraint remains unclear. Turner provided little details to clarify that part of the shooting. But he noted that Christian has managed to escape handcuffs at least one previous time while in APD custody.

Turner said the gun that Christian used likely came from the stolen pickup truck. Officers did not find the weapon prior to handcuffing Christian and placing her in the squad car.

“It was clear to us that the officers did not search her prior to putting her in the back of the car,” Turner said. “That’s part of our internal investigation on if our policies were actually violated.”

APD policy requires male officers to pat women suspects “with the back of their hand” in the presence of other witnesses. Turner says that extensive body searches of women suspects are supposed to be conducted by an on-duty female police officer before the suspect is transported to jail. A female officer was unable to respond to yesterday’s scene given how quickly the shooting happened, Sgt. Gregory Lyon said.

Fulton County Jail records show that Christian had been arrested nine times before being apprehended on May 1. Three of those arrests were related to stealing vehicles. She had been taken into custody twice this year. APD arrested her for shoplifting in January and East Point Police charged her with selling marijuana in March.


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Lyon said the incident remains under investigation and could take “days, weeks, or months” to complete. He added that investigators would seek out additional footage from the area. A surveillance camera attached to the adjacent parking deck is located directly above the police car.

According to APD policy, the department does not have to release related documents or surveillance footage until they’re finished with the investigation. Turner does have the authority to release any video footage from the front dashboard camera or other surveillance cameras in the area, Lyon said.

“There is surveillance footage,” Turner told reporters. “It will not be made public as we are continuing to investigate this as a criminal matter.’

Turner said only the APD squad car’s front dashboard camera was switched on during the incident. The front dash cam, which faces outward toward the hood of the car and street, would not show Christian. It would, however, provide audio of the shooting — and potentially the officers’ actions once they left the vehicle. The rear dashboard camera only turns on while police vehicles are in motion.

According to Lyon, Cook, 53, and Thyme, 33, have been placed on routine administrative leave pending the investigation’s outcome. Cook has served as an APD officer for 18 years, while Thyme joined the police force 10 months ago. Both officers are expected to speak with investigators early next week. APD says it will release more details as the investigation continues.