An employee who witnessed part of the heated dispute between Georgia State Rep. Erica Thomas and Eric Sparkes in a Publix express lane, told a Cobb County officer that she didn’t hear Sparkes tell the Thomas to “go back where you came from,” according to the Cobb County police report. The employee told the police that it was Thomas herself who “continuously” used the phrase, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Thomas, who is nine months pregnant, tearfully claimed on Friday that a “white man” in a supermarket check-out line called her a “lazy son-of-a-b*tch” and told her to “go back where you came from” after accusing her of taking too many items into a supermarket express lane at an Atlanta-area Publix store.
Thomas’s video went viral and the hashtag #IStandwithErica trended on Twitter while Democrat pols like Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Beto O’Rourk jumped in the fray to tie the incident to President Trump’s rhetoric.
Thomas demanded that the police investigate the matter — and investigate they did.
The Cobb County police concluded their investigation Tuesday morning, announcing that there would be no charges filed against neither Thomas nor Sparkes, (both Democrats).
The employee told the police she heard Thomas “continuously tell Eric Sparkes to ‘Go back where you came from!’”
In her Facebook video, Thomas had accused Sparkes of racially berating her for skirting the 10-or-fewer items rule. “This white man comes up to me and says, ‘You lazy son of a b*tch. You need to go back where you came from,’” she wailed in the video, dabbing her eyes with a tissue. “Sir, you don’t even know me. I’m not lazy. I’m nine months pregnant.”
Sparkes, an anti-Trump Cuban-American, showed up during a press conference with Thomas on Saturday outside the Publix store where the incident occurred and emphatically denied that he had told her “to go back where you came from.”
He explained that “this woman” was in the express lane at Publix with about 20 items when two other lanes were completely open. He said he used one of those lanes to pay for his three items and went to talk to a customer service associate about Thomas’ improper behavior because it “frustrated” him. Sparkes said the Publix associate told him that employees are not supposed to confront customers who abuse the express lane, but fellow customers are free to do so. So he decided to go talk to her.
Sparkes told reporters that his “exact first words” were “ma’am, not to be rude”and that he said them while pointing to the sign that said “ten items or less.” He also noted that he has seen the surveillance footage and it shows him pointing to the sign.
Sparkes said that Thomas angrily and aggressively approached him after that, berating him, and forcing him to take a few steps back. Thomas behaved in a similar manner at the press conference, aggressively confronting and interrupting Sparkes while he was trying to tell his side of the story.
The officer who reviewed the surveillance tape 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.”
According to the report, when Thomas moved toward Sparkes a second time, a Publix staffer waved for him to leave and the Thomas turned to her daughter and paid for her groceries. The entire incident reportedly lasted about 45 seconds.
A Publix service manager told police that after Sparkes confronted Thomas he began to leave but “Ms. Thomas kept ‘running her mouth’ as she approached him.” The woman said Sparkes responded by repeatedly calling Thomas “ignorant.”
Another Publix staffer told police he heard Sparkes call Thomas an expletive, (which Sparkes had freely admitted.)
This employee told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he didn’t hear Sparkes tell Thomas 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.”
On Saturday, after Sparkes told reporters his side of the story, including the fact that he’d already talked to the police and seen the surveillance tape, Thomas walked back her story. She told Channel 2 Action News: “I don’t want to say he said, ‘Go back to your country,’ or ‘Go back to where you came from.’ But he was making those types of references is what I remember.
Perhaps if she thought a little harder, she might remember saying the words herself.