Atlanta may be known as the center for America’s Civil Rights Movement, but when a tragedy involves the death of a black youth by one of its officers, the city simply goes mum. Ms. Freda Waiters, mother of slain 19-year-old Ariston gets emotional sifting through more than 4,500 pages of documents she has collected. “He was murdered in cold blood, like some stray dog on the street,” declares Ms. Waiters, pointing to the boxes of discovery. “The proof’s all here, yet everyone is covering it up.”
On the evening of December 14, 2011, Ariston Waiters was on the way home to be with his new-born daughter Ajaleh in Union City, a suburb of Atlanta. A fight erupted betwixt a gathering of teenage girls. Waiters, like others, stopped to watch. The disturbance was called into 911, and Union City police responded quickly; the crowd dispersed at their arrival. Fresh off the battlefield in Afghanistan, Union City Officer Luther Lewis took chase. Evidence documents that Waiters was neither involved nor armed. Ariston did not even run.
At 135 pounds, Waiters was easily taken down by Lewis. He was placed face to ground, hands over head. Lewis’ knee pressed firmly into Waiters’ back. With one handcuff on, the officer called in a Code 4 – “no assistance needed.” Even without the handcuffs, the teen was no match for the war veteran. The officer reached for his other hand, but Waiters allegedly resisted. GBI Forensics’ notes the lack of traction marks to indicate any resistance or struggle. There wasn’t one.
Rather than reach for his holstered Taser, as he is trained to use for “compliance,” Lewis grabbed his service revolver instead. Without justification, the Union City officer fired two shots into Waiters’ spine, just inches apart. Powder burn marks through Waiters’ skin confirm they were fired at point-blank range. A local EMT heard the gunshots and offered to assist the youth as he lie bleeding, presenting her credentials to police – but was refused. Ariston died at Grady Hospital later that night; Ms. Waiters lost her only child.
“He was very artistic and very talented,” says Ms. Waiters, “a real people person. Ariston would give you the shirt off his back if it would help.” While Ms. Waiters notes that Ariston enjoyed life, he did not have an easy one. “At the age of thirteen, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, law enforcement is not always trained on how to handle the mentally disabled. Ariston had a loving family that was always there to help and support him.”
Lewis detailed the unlikely scenario of a struggle where he was nearly overpowered by the fey teen in his case filings, and under oath. The GBI opened a formal investigation, but elected to not interview officers at the scene. Forensic analysis performed at the request of Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard Jr. documented that Waiters death was not justifiable. Yet, Luther Lewis was cleared of wrongdoing by a Special Grand Jury May 30, 2012, and reinstated back on the police force in active duty.
A wrongful death suit against Union City Police followed, and three-quarters of a million dollars in
damages was paid by the city to a trust fund for Ariston’s daughter. It was noted by fellow officers that Lewis had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from his military service. PTSD has most recently been tied to the shooting death of "American Sniper" author Chris Kyle, 38, and another man on Feb. 2, 2013. In the end, Luther Lewis lost his job, but was never prosecuted for his actions.
“Every day I pray to God for resolution,” Ms. Waiters laments. “Money won’t bring back my son back – Ariston deserves justice.” With nowhere to turn, Ms. Waiters called on internationally renown Private Investigator T.J. Ward to perform his own inquiry into Ariston’s death, and bring forth the hand of justice that Georgia officials cannot – or simply will not extend.
Using advanced Layered Voice Analysis (LVA) technology, Ward first evaluated the statements made by the officer himself. Unlike the interpretation of body language signals, or highly subjective polygraph analysis, LVA is an advanced technology to detect “brain activity traces” using the voice as a medium. It was initially developed for Israel's Mossad, but is now utilized by high-level law enforcement agencies across the globe.
“There’s no question that Lewis is lying about what happened that day,” Ward states confidently. “It’s impossible for the events that were documented by the officer to have actually taken place.” A former Union City Police detective, and reserve police commander with more than 35 years experience, Ward speaks from authority on police procedure, “When a young man such as Ariston is senselessly killed, and the internal system of inquiry fails to act in accordance, it brings distrust from the community toward law enforcement officers who are there to protect.”
In Ferguson, Missouri, experts cited the many years of police distrust for the violent and racially charged riots after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot dead by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014. “Unlike the no-bill decision in St. Louis,” comments Ward, “no reasonable person could believe that Lewis’ actions were either out of self-defense or fear.”
Further investigation by Ward has uncovered new information that could indeed press for a formal review and potential indictment of Luther Lewis. There is no statute of limitation for murder. “This is a case that even on its face demands re-opening,” proclaims Ward. Yet, Ward’s letters and calls to Fulton DA Howard go without response.
“I was at the cemetery earlier today," reflects Ms. Waiters, pausing. "It's been very difficult. I can't understand why my son is dead, and his murderer is still walking the streets. I trust that T.J. will show who's responsible for covering up Ariston's murder. I want the whole house to come tumbling down.”