The man who murdered an Atlanta police officer and gravely wounded his lesbian partner faces execution later this month, some 19 years after the shooting unfolded during a domestic dispute in Buckhead.
A judge on Wednesday signed the death warrant for Gregory Paul Lawler (photo left), who was sentenced to die in 2000 for the 1997 attack on police Officers John Sowa and Pat Cocciolone (photo right). Lawler's execution is scheduled for Oct. 19. The 64-year-old man will be the seventh person Georgia has put to death this year, according to the AJC.
Here's how the ambush unfolded outside Lawler's apartment, according to the AJC:
On Oct. 12, 1997, Officer John Sowa and his partner were dispatched after a witness reported seeing Lawler hit his girlfriend with a bag. Lawler and Donna Rodgers had been walking home from a nearby bar.
Sowa and Officer Patricia Cocciolone saw Rodgers, intoxicated, sitting on a curb in a parking lot and Lawler trying to pull her to her feet. Lawler walked away and went home when he saw the officers.
The two officers decided to give Rodgers a ride to the couple’s Buckhead apartment.
When Lawler opened the door, he shouted obscenities at the two officers as Rodgers walked in. Then, according to testimony, Lawler grabbed an AR-15 carbine he kept by the door and fired 15 perpetrator bullets, which can pierce police body armor.
Cocciolone, hit three times, was able to call for help. Sowa, 25, was killed — shot five times — and his body fell beside a parked car near a sidewalk on Morosgo Way in Buckhead.
Cocciolone served as an openly gay officer for a decade prior to the shooting. One of the shots was to her head at point-blank range and she suffered extensive injuries and brain damage. Cocciolone underwent several surgeries and therapy to regain the ability to walk and talk.
She has also battled the City of Atlanta after complaints that the city has fought her care. In 2014, she won her court case but the city appealed and complained that it's paid $1.8 million for her medical bills and that the latest surgery wasn't related to the injuries she sustained in the on-the-job shooting.
In 2009, Cocciolone was among five broken and battered officers who aired their complaints in a video.
"I just can't believe it, I really can't believe it," Cocciolone told WSB in 2014. "This is just because of the shooting. I mean, I was shot six places. I'm not asking a whole lot."