Cobb County

State lawmaker, man she accused of verbally harassing her confront each other

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — UPDATE: State Rep. Erica Thomas held a news conference Monday about her version of the confrontation.


The day after an African American Georgia lawmaker says a man told her to "go back where she came from" at  a Cobb County grocery store, the man accused came forward to tell Channel 2 Action News his side of the story.

State Rep. Erica Thomas, who represents District 39, recorded an emotional Facebook Live video detailing what she says happened at a Publix in Mableton on Friday.

Thomas said she was waiting in the express lane with her daughter when a man became angry over the number of items she had.

"This white man comes up to me and says, 'You lazy son of [expletive]. You need to go back where you came from,'" the lawmaker said in her Facebook video. "Sir, you don't even know me. I'm not lazy. I'm nine months pregnant."

Thomas did not record the incident on her phone, but Channel 2's Chris Jose was told there is surveillance video and police are investigating. Channel 2 Action News is working to get the surveillance video.

On Saturday afternoon, Channel 2's Christian Jennings went to interview Thomas about the incident. While she was there, the man Thomas accused of verbally attacking her, Eric Sparkes, also showed up outside the Publix.

Thomas and Sparkes got into a second heated conversation as news cameras rolled.

Sparkes claims he never said anything racist, although he did admit to cursing at Thomas for having too many items in the express checkout lane.

"I'm a liar about what?" Thomas asked Sparkes.

"Everything that happened," Sparkes said. "Me telling you to 'Go back where you came from. Did I say that? Is it on video?"

"Are you serious? What did you say to me then," Thomas asked.

"I called you a lazy (expletive)," Sparkes said to Thomas. "That's the worst thing I said."

"Yeah, that makes you look better to say that," Thomas said.

Sparkes told Jennings he is a Democrat and of Cuban nationality and claimed Thomas was just accusing him to help her political career.

"This woman is playing the victim for political purposes because she is a state legislator," Sparkes said. "I'm a Democrat and will vote Democrat for the rest of my life, so call me whatever you want to believe. For her political purposes, make it black, white, brown, whatever. It is untrue."

When Jennings talked to Thomas after the confrontation, she tried to clarify if Sparkes really told Thomas to "go back where you came from."

"I don't want to say he said, 'Go back to your country,' or 'Go back to where you came from,'" Thomas said. "But he was making those types of references is what I remember."

Jennings asked Thomas why Sparkes would deny saying that.

"Of course you would deny those things. But the people in the store, you know we have witnesses that are willing to be a witness in court."

Thomas said that no matter what, Sparkes shouldn't have verbally assaulted her.

"He needs to be held accountable, because people can't just go out in public areas and berate pregnant women," Thomas countered. "Whether it was because I'm pregnant, whether it's because I'm black."


Thomas said she did not bring up her position in the Georgia House of Representatives during the incident and asked Sparkes to leave her and daughter alone.

"My child is just sitting there. 'Mama, why would he call you that?' I can't even explain to her why he has so much hate in his heart."

Thomas said Publix employees kicked Sparkes out and he kept coming back inside.

Thomas said her husband wasn't there to defend her because he is serving overseas.

Publix sent a statement to Channel 2's Lauren Pozen, saying: "At Publix we are committed to creating a safe and welcoming shopping experience for all our customers. We are cooperating with local law enforcement as they look into the matter."

Pozen spoke with attorney Gerald Griggs, who is on the board for Georgia's NAACP chapter. Griggs told Pozen another state representative brought Thomas' video to his attention.

“I was shocked, and I told them that the Georgia NAACP will do whatever they can to help in this case," he said.

It's unclear if any charges will be filed against either party.

WARNING: These are raw, unedited videos of interviews with Thomas and Sparkes. They may contain language.