Magnolia Street crowd

Crowds gathered on Magnolia Street after a Thomas County drug squad agent shot a suspect. The suspect eventually died. 

THOMASVILLE — Findings from a Georgia Bureau of Investigation probe of the Tuesday shooting death of a Thomasville man by a narcotics agent will be turned over to the district attorney's office for review.

Herbert Gilbert, 37, 419 Magnolia St., who is black, was shot by the Thomas County drug agent about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday.

Wednesday, the Thomasville Regional GBI office identified the agent as Josh Smith, who has been employed by the Thomas County Sheriff's Office since June 2012. Smith is white.

Thomas County Sheriff Carlton Powell said the officer is on administrative leave “until everything is brought out.”

Powell said the GBI is handling every aspect of the investigation, which will determine if the action was appropriate for conditions.

“We let an outside set of eyes take a look at the sequence of events,” he said. 

Vehicles involved in the incident were in the yard of the house where a warrant was being served, Powell said.

A GBI press release says the incident involved Gilbert's vehicle, a silver SUV, and drug squad vehicles prior to the shooting.

"There wasn't a pursuit. The vehicles were involved in a collision," said Marko Jones, assistant special agent in charge of the Thomasville GBI office.

When asked if Gilbert was armed, Jones said GBI agents are viewing video from drug agents' body cameras.

In late 2015, Smith was suspended for not following procedure in the mechanics of an arrest. In that case, Smith was on call for the drug squad when he became aware of a Coolidge police pursuit of a vehicle running stop signs and traveling at a high rate of speed in rural Thomas County, the sheriff said in December 2015.

The vehicle traveled onto Salem Road, with Coolidge police still in pursuit during the 2015 incident. Smith, also on Salem Church, realized the SUV was traveling in his direction and was going to put out “stop sticks" to puncture the speeding vehicle's tires.

Smith parked on the side of the road as the fleeing vehicle came toward him in 2015. He removed his service firearm from its holster, which he was not wearing. The SUV ran hot and came to a stop almost beside the drug agent's vehicle on Salem Church at Coffee Road. Smith told the driver to throw out his keys and get out of the vehicle, but the driver did not follow the command in the past incident.

After the suspect eventually got out of the SUV, Smith told the driver repeatedly to get on the ground in the 2015 case. When the driver did not comply, Smith pushed the man down with one hand, with the firearm in his other hand. The weapon discharged.

The 2015 takedown of the driver and the discharge of the firearm were recorded on video. Smith was suspended from the road then, pending an internal investigation. At the end of the internal investigation, all sheriff's officers attended a class on mechanics of arrest. Smith underwent additional training in mechanics of arrest at a police academy.

Thomas County Jail records show that since 2005, Gilbert has been charged with a number of offenses, including obstruction, multiple counts of probation violation, cocaine possession, cocaine possession with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of ecstasy, sale of cocaine, marijuana possession with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, simple battery (family violence), assault/simple battery, and cruelty toward child (family offense). He was charged in May 2017 with marijuana possession with intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of a school. Gilbert was released in September 2015 from Coffee Correctional Facility on a cocaine possession charge.

In the Tuesday case, Jones said, "Agents are still processing evidence, including the (Gilbert's) vehicle. We won't know until all the evidence has been processed."

Jones said the case is an officer-involved shooting/use of force investigation.

Jones declined to say how many times Gilbert was shot. An autopsy was performed Wednesday in Macon.

Thomas County Coroner Don Shiver said the number of gunshot wounds will not be known until the autopsy report is complete. Final autopsy results should be available in about two months, Shiver said, adding that toxicology findings would be included.

Interviews of officers involved, witnesses to the incident and the processing of the crime scene continue. 

Since January 2013, the GBI has investigated 293 officer-involved shootings. 

"We have worked 51 so far in 2017," Bahan Rich, public affairs deputy director, said Wednesday. "The case yesterday is the first in Thomas County during that time."

In 2016, 30 suspects were fatally wounded. Seven officers were killed last year, and 26 were injured.

Anyone with information about the Tuesday shooting is asked to call the Thomasville GBI Regional Office at (229) 225-4090. 

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