- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Cobb County police said Tuesday that no charges will be brought in the grocery-store altercation between a Georgia state lawmaker and a man she accused of telling her to “go back where you came from.”

“On Friday, July 19, 2019 Cobb County Police began investigating an incident at a local Publix store involving a dispute between two individuals, Georgia State Representative Erica Thomas and Eric Sparkes,” said the police statement.

“After a thorough investigation both parties have been advised there will be no charges made by the Cobb County Police Department. Both were provided information on how to contact the Cobb County Magistrate’s Office if either wished to pursue any further criminal action,” the statement concluded.

Mr. Sparkes admitted to reporters that he called Ms. Thomas “a selfish little b—-h,” but denied her allegation that he told her to “go back where you came from,” a claim that received national media coverage in the wake of President Trump’s “go back” tweet last week.

In a tearful viral video, Ms. Thomas said, “This white man comes up to me and says, ‘You lazy son of b—-h. You need to go back where you came from,’” but later appeared to backtrack in an interview with local reporters.

“He said go back, you know, those types of words. 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,” said Ms. Thomas in video posted Saturday.

On Monday, however, the black Democratic legislator held a press conference with her attorney, Gerald Griggs, at which she denied walking back her claim.

“I want to make sure that everyone knows that in any way am I backtracking on my statement or am I retracting on anything that I said,” Ms. Thomas said at the press event.

Mr. Sparkes, meanwhile, has said he may pursue a defamation lawsuit over the incident, in which he confronted her because he said she used the 10-item express lane to purchase about 20 grocery items.

He also told reporters that he was Cuban, not white, and a lifelong Democrat.

“Ms. Thomas accuses me of telling her to go back to wherever. Those words were never spoken,” Mr. Sparkes said in a statement to WSB-TV. “She backtracked slightly and now is changing her story. I am in the process of exploring with attorneys a defamation lawsuit against her.”

The episode has erupted on social media platforms like Twitter, which features the competing hashtags #IStandWithErica and #HateHoax.

Some prominent Democrats, including Reps. Karen Bass and Ted Lieu of California, have tweeted support for Ms. Thomas, while Georgia Republican Party chairman Davis Shafer said the Democrat legislator should be turned out of office.

“Representative @ItsEricaThomas apparently lied when she said a man in the Publix express lane told her to go back to where she came. But I will say this: In the 2020 elections, she should be sent home to Austell for manufacturing a #HateHoax,” Mr. Shafer tweeted.

Her allegation was framed as an example of racism fueled by President Trump’s July 14 tweet presumably referring to the four Democratic first-term congresswomen known as “The Squad.”

“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done,” he tweeted.

Mr. Trump has since come under a hail of criticism from those accusing him of xenophobia and racism, pointing out that only one of the four, Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Democrat, was born outside the United States.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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