Fulton Native’s Murderer Executed In Atlanta

ATLANTA, GA. – Justice has been served for a former Fulton family – after a 19-year wait.

Convicted cop killer Gregory Lawler was executed this evening (Oct. 19) in Atlanta.

Atlanta police officer John Richard “Rick” Sowa.
Atlanta police officer John Richard “Rick” Sowa.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied his request for clemency and Lawler was put to death shortly after 11:45 p.m. The execution was scheduled for 7 p.m., but last-minute appeals dragged on.

He was pronounced dead at 11:49 p.m.; he made no statement and no prayer.

He had been placed in a holding cell as his fate was deliberated.

Lawler, 63, was convicted for the Oct. 12, 1997, murder of Atlanta police officer John “Rick” Sowa – a native of Fulton, NY.

“I’m glad it’s over. For me, 19 years of waiting is over,” Sowa’s mother, Christine Carlson Roth, told Oswego County Today. “I feel kind of numb and wish I would hear from my daughter. It is peace after 19 long years.”

Her daughter, Kim, was in Atlanta for the recent clemency hearing and was at the prison Wednesday evening.

Her victim’s statement tells it all, her mother added.

Former Fulton Police Chief Mark Spawn “was my support for 19 years. He was supposed to be in Atlanta with Kim, but had to go to Europe,” Roth said. “We didn’t go down to Atlanta as I didn’t want to relive everything all over again.”

Roth now lives in North Carolina; her daughter in Texas.

“I would like to thank the Fulton Police Department for remembering my son all these years,” Roth said.

“Former Fulton resident and city of Atlanta Police Officer John Richard Sowa, was killed in line of duty just over 19 years ago. It was an honor today (Oct. 18) for members of the City of Fulton Police Benevolent Association to place a wreath remembering his life, service and sacrifice at the Edgar M. Combes Memorial Garden across from the War Memorial. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and his brothers and sisters at the City of Atlanta Police Department,” the FPD said on its Facebook page.

“Thank you to the Fulton Police Department for placing the wreath and flag. We, as his mom and step-dad, thank you for honoring our son. Today is the day of the execution and our long 19 years of waiting will be over. Love and God bless each and every one of you at the FPD. Mark Spawn and I have been in touch the entire time,” Roth replied.

Sowa was mortally wounded and his partner, Pat Cocciolone, was critically wounded in the shooting that occurred just moments after the two officers had walked Lawler’s drunken girlfriend to the door of the apartment she shared with Lawler.

The officers had been dispatched to a report of “a man hitting a woman with a bag.” As they arrived, they observed Lawler trying to pull his girlfriend, Donna Rodgers, to her feet.

Lawler reportedly walked away. The two officers decided to drive the intoxicated woman home. However, seconds after Rodgers walked into the apartment, Lawler opened fire on officers with armor-piercing bullets.

Sowa died on the lawn. Cocciolone, though seriously wounded, called for help. Neither officer ever drew their guns.