COBB COUNTY, GA — Surveillance video has been released of the weekend confrontation between a black metro Atlanta lawmaker and a white man, an argument that has sparked another chapter in the nation’s never-ending racial dialogue. The video shows the brief argument between Eric Sparkes and state Rep. Erica Thomas, a confrontation that led Thomas to record a tearful, Facebook Live video in which she said Sparkes told her to “go back where she came from,” charges that Sparkes denies.
The confrontation took place last Friday at a Cobb County Publix when Sparkes saw Thomas in an express checkout line with too many items in her cart. After leaving the store with his items, Sparkes returned to express his anger at Thomas, who was still in line. Thomas said Sparkes called her a “a lazy son of a [expletive]” and told her to “go back where she came from.”
On Saturday, Thomas was being interviewed by a local TV station outside the Publix when Sparkes showed up. Thomas and Sparkes got into another argument in front of the TV crew, with Sparkes denying he said Thomas should “go back where she came from.” Sparkes did admit cursing at Thomas for having too many items in her cart, and “called her a lazy (expletive).” Sparkes, who said he’s of Cuban descent and a Democrat, said Thomas is just trying to further her political career.
On Monday, Thomas and her supporters held a news conference, during which she said she was “embarrassed, and I was scared for my life” during the alleged incident. Sparkes then released a statement, in which he said “Ms. Thomas has taken an innocuous situation that began on my part to be about being inconsiderate and turned into a national case about race overnight. Ms. Thomas accuses me of telling her to go back to whereever. Those words were never spoken. She backtracked slightly and now is changing her story. I am in the process of exploring with attorneys a defamation lawsuit against her.”
On Tuesday, police said no charges will be filed in the incident. On Wednesday, Thomas’ attorney, Gerald Griggs, released a copy of the police report online. Despite the fact that two witnesses were unable to corroborate Thomas’ version of events, Griggs said the report validates his client’s original Facebook Live video.
More: Black Lawmaker: White Man Told Me ‘Go Back Where You Came From’
And: Confrontation Between Black Female Lawmaker, White Man Goes Viral
The police report cited two Publix employees who said they did not remember or witness the argument between Thomas and Sparkes.
Sparkes told police he saw Thomas using the express lane, left the store to put his items in his car, and then came back in to confront her about it. “He points at the entrance of the express lane, possibly at the sign and they clearly begin arguing,” the police report said. The responding officer said he witnessed a surveillance video, without audio, in which Sparkes did not appear to be irate. “Nor did I see him with clenched hands,” as Thomas claimed to police.