A man convicted of killing an Atlanta police officer and wounding a second officer with an AR-15 rifle was executed late Wednesday, becoming the seventh inmate put to death in Georgia this year. Gregory Paul Lawler, 63, was pronounced dead at 11:49pm at the state prison in Jackson after he was injected with the barbiturate pentobarbital, the AP reports. He was convicted of murder in the October 1997 slaying of Officer John Sowa and for critically wounding Officer Patricia Cocciolone. Lawler didn't make a final statement and refused an offer of a prayer. Cocciolone arrived in a wheelchair and sat in the front row of the witness area, as did the DA whose office prosecuted Lawler.
Sowa and Cocciolone were responding to a report of a man hitting a woman the evening of Oct. 12, 1997, and arrived at a parking lot to find Lawler trying to pull his drunken girlfriend to her feet. He took off and the officers decided to help the girlfriend get home. When they arrived at his apartment, Lawler cursed at them and told them to leave. He grabbed an AR-15 rifle and fired 15 times as the officers fled. His attorneys argued that a diagnosis last month of autism spectrum disorder helps explain why their client acted as he did. That disorder caused Lawler to misinterpret the officers' intentions and led him to believe he was in danger and needed to fight for his life, his attorneys argued.