Erica Thomas and Eric Sparkes

Ga. State Rep. Erica Thomas (D) and Georgia resident Eric Sparkes (D). Screen grab via WSB-TV.

The case involving Georgia State Rep. Erica Thomas (D) and Georgia resident Eric Sparkes (D) took an interesting twist on Tuesday when it was revealed that at least one of the Publix witnesses told police that they heard Thomas, and not Sparkes, repeatedly yell “go back to where you came from.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:

A witness to a heated grocery store encounter between state Rep. Erica Thomas and a man she accused of uttering racist comments told authorities she didn’t hear him make those remarks, according to a Cobb County police report.

A Publix employee told a Cobb County officer that she witnessed part of the conversation and heard Thomas “continuously tell Eric Sparkes to ‘Go back where you came from!’” but did not hear Sparkes utter those words to Thomas.

In a report written by a police officer who reviewed the video, it was noted that Sparkes “did not appear to be irate” when he approached Thomas about the issue he had with her using the express lane, which is contra to Thomas’s claim that he came towards her aggressively with his fists clenched:

He wrote that Sparkes “did not appear to be irate” during the confrontation and that he quickly retreated from Thomas as she moved his way “pointing her finger at him.” When she moved toward Sparkes a second time, a Publix staffer waved for him to leave and Thomas turned to her daughter and paid for her items, he wrote. The dispute lasted about 45 seconds.

Two more witnesses who are Publix employees told police what they saw and heard:

The Publix employee, a customer service manager, told police that after Sparkes accosted Thomas he began to leave but “Ms. Thomas kept ‘running her mouth’ as she approached him.” Sparkes, she said, responded by repeatedly calling Thomas “ignorant.”

The employee told the officer that she did not hear either of them use profanity.

Another Publix staffer, Derrick Tompkins, told police he heard Sparkes call Thomas an expletive. Tompkins told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he didn’t hear him tell her to “go back” to where she came from. “I’m not going to say that wasn’t said, but I don’t remember hearing it,” he said in an interview. “I’m going to leave it at that.”

Thomas’s attorney Gerald Griggs posted “the full police report” to his Twitter feed and said it backs up the claims Thomas made on her Facebook live. Please make sure to read the report in full:

Here’s Thomas’s Facebook live video:

Here are some key points to consider: On Saturday, the day after her Facebook live video, she backtracked on saying that Sparkes told her to “go back to where you came from.” She denied backtracking on anything in her Monday presser, but the videos tell a different story:

Remember that Thomas’s racism claims about Sparkes are what caused this story to blow up to begin with. If it’s no longer about racism but instead a man confronting a woman at an express lane, it’s still not a good scenario but as I said yesterday it’s a serious climb-down from her insinuation that Sparkes was motivated by the Trump rally where some attendees chanted “send her back” in reference to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

Here’s what Thomas has said that does check out. She said that Sparkes left the store but then returned and approached her at the express lane. That’s true, according to the police report:

The second video clip I observed showed Mr. Sparkes walk to the first set of exit doors where he stopped and began speaking with Ms. Murrell [a store manager] who was standing at the exit. The video does not have audio, so what was said is unknown. After speaking with Ms. Murrell he then departs the inner doors and leaves the frame of the video. A few seconds later, Mr. Sparkes returns through the door and goes straight to the express lane where Ms. Thomas and her daughter were checking out.

So it’s clear from this report that Sparkes initiated the confrontation, although it’s not clear if he meant to be “confrontational.” Either way, no matter how irate you get over someone using an express lane to get checked out for more items than what the lane’s limit is, you just have to let that go. Pick and choose your battles. This is not a battle you choose. You simply walk away.

Sparkes admitted that he did call Thomas “a lazy, ignorant b****”, which Thomas said in the video. Thomas has said that in response to Sparkes’s alleged comments to her about “going back’ that she in turn told him to “go back” but she did not say she told him to “go back to where you came from.”

Because there is no audio police don’t know exactly what was said first and what the tone of voice was when it was said, and can only rely on witness testimony. But the police report makes it appear as though Thomas quickly gained control of the situation and repeatedly berated Sparkes as he was trying to back away, contra to the insinuation she made in the video that she was so off guard that she didn’t know what to say.

Also, Sparkes’s Facebook page has posts decrying Trump’s “go back to your country” tweets, so why would he say “go back to where you came from” to Thomas? As I speculated a couple of days ago, he probably told her to “go back” to a regular check out lane and that’s where the fuss began, and then she made the comment on her Facebook live about “go back to where you came from” that she backtracked on the next day.

There’s also this interesting tidbit of info. If the experience was as traumatic as she claimed it was, why post a Facebook live before you filed a report with the police?

On Tuesday, the Cobb County PD announced they would not be filing any criminal charges. Sparkes said Monday he is considering filing a defamation lawsuit against Thomas.

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— Based in North Carolina, Sister Toldjah is a former liberal and a 15+ year veteran of blogging with an emphasis on media bias, social issues, and the culture wars. Read her Red State archives here. Connect with her on Twitter. –