MARIETTA, GA -- Cobb County police say they plan to fire a veteran police Lieutenant for telling a motorist that police only shoot black people. Thursday police expressed regret for the incident, which happened during a traffic stop in July 2016.

Last summer, Cobb County police Lieutenant Greg Abbott pulled over a motorist and asked a passenger for ID. When the passenger worried aloud that she might unwittingly provoke the officer, Lieutenant Abbott had this response: "But you're not black. Remember, we only kill black people. Yeah, we only kill black people."

That exchange will likely cost Abbott his job, according to Cobb County police chief Mike Register, who says he and Abbott are longtime colleagues. Register said Abbott was notified Thursday of the department's intent to fire him, and took him off the payroll. Abbott has the right to appeal.

Register described Abbott as an honorable man, but added that there was no excuse for what he said to the passenger in the car.

Register says he believes Abbott was trying use sarcasm, perhaps to gain the passenger’s trust. Cobb police have struggled in recent years to soothe racial tensions between officers and African American motorists.

Chief Register says Lt. Abbott had a clean disciplinary record – until the firing offense recorded last year by a police camera.