The FBI is investigating whether police covered up the truth about what really happened when a black teenager was shot twice in the back while handcuffed by a white officer who claimed there was a struggle for his gun.
Daily Mail Online can reveal that FBI agents have begun looking into the 2011 death of Ariston Waiters.
Police Officer Luther Lewis, of Union City Police Department in Georgia, shot Ariston Waiters twice in the back as he was handcuffing the 19-year-old who face down on the ground on the night of December 14, 2011.
There were no witnesses to the close-range shooting and Lewis claimed the teen tried to grab his gun during a ‘struggle’.
A grand jury refused to indict the officer for murder in May 2012, and he left the police department in 2014.
But new evidence has since been unearthed contradicting the official account and casts doubt on the officer’s version of events.
And senior officers at the Union City Police Department have been accused of covering up Lewis’ actions.
The evidence – uncovered by private investigator TJ Ward, the man who recently found a new witness in the Natalee Holloway case – raises serious questions about how officials investigated Waiters’ death, one of more than 100 fatal police shootings in Georgia in the past five years.
And it is feared the new details – which have angered Waiters’ family and the Union City community – could spark racial tension – and rioting – similar to what happened in Baltimore and Ferguson.
Waiters was shot in the back twice and killed after running from the scene of teenagers fighting in a Union City neighborhood.
But the first officer on the scene has revealed that Lewis did not mention a struggle for his gun and told a very different story just minutes after it happened.
Two separate people told Daily Mail Online they have been questioned by the FBI within the last week. The Bureau had previously closed its inquiries into the death, but the new involvement opens the way for a new, full, investigation.
The inquiry is likely to center on two findings made by a private investigator who looked into the death on behalf of the dead teenager’s family.
TJ Ward, who earlier this month uncovered a new witness in the mystery of the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, found inconsistencies in the account Lewis gave at the time.
And a serving police officer, Union City Police Lt. Chris McElroy, has come forward as a whistleblower to raise his concerns over the events surrounding Waiters’ death.
Both men told Daily Mail Online the FBI had been in touch with them.
Lt McElroy said: ‘The FBI spoke to me on Friday and I know they spoke with another officer. They told me they had a meeting at the US Attorney’s office later that day.
‘I just hope that it is looked at more thoroughly to make sure that there is nothing inappropriate that occurred.’
Private investigator TJ Ward said: ‘The FBI has already interviewed three witnesses in detail, that happened Friday.
‘The FBI also called me and they’ve got my reports.’
On December 14, 2011, Lewis was on early evening patrol with his partner Thomas Ledford when they responded to teenagers fighting and reports of gunshots at Hickory Lane Circle, a known trouble spot.
According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution which quoted police reports, Lewis said he saw Waiters flee the area, and followed him to the woods.
Carrying both a Taser and a Glock 17 handgun, Lewis drew his gun and ordered Waiters to the ground. Waiters complied, Lewis said.
With one handcuff on, the officer called in a Code 4 – ‘no assistance needed’. What happened over the next 60 seconds became the focus of months of investigation.
Lewis said that he put a knee between Waiters’ shoulders, grabbed his hands and radioed that he had a suspect in custody.
Then he handcuffed Waiter’s left hand, he said. But when Lewis tried to cuff his right hand, Waiters was able to break free and slide his right hand underneath him, Lewis said. When Lewis couldn’t pull the hand out, he thought Waiters was going for a gun. Lewis said he pulled his Glock 17 handgun from his service holster.
His left hand still cuffed behind his back and still on his stomach, Waiters grabbed Lewis’ gun with his right hand and started to twist the gun back toward Lewis, Lewis said.