My name is Karen McGehee. I am the mother of Caroline Small. My daughter was shot by two Glynn County police officers on June 18, 2010, in Brunswick, Georgia. After the shooting Caroline never regained consciousness and died one week later. She was just 35 years old. Who was Caroline Small? Caroline was a daughter, a wife, a mother, a sister, a granddaughter, an aunt, a niece, a cousin, and a friend to many. Caroline grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, where she was loved and nurtured by her family and friends. From the time she was a baby, Caroline loved books and never went to sleep without a story. She taught herself to read at an early age and often read stories to her friends in the preschool carpool. Caroline enjoyed playing with her younger brother and her friends, as well as participating in many activities at school and church. Caroline showed her creativity through art, music, and writing and later shared her talents with her young daughters.
As a teenager Caroline began struggling with emotional issues and drugs. She participated in numerous self-help groups as a young adult and was an active member of Narcotics Anonymous in Brunswick. At one point in her recovery Caroline worked at Gateway Behavioral Services in Brunswick in a community outreach program. Later, Caroline worked in an inpatient program where she led discussion groups and worked individually with the people on her caseload. Many people have shared stories of how Caroline reached out to them in their struggles with addiction. Her involvement in these activities made our family realize that even in her own struggles Caroline was able to help others in need. A halfway house in Brunswick has been named "The Caroline House" in her honor.
The death of a child is the hardest thing a parent can ever endure. Caroline's death is extremely difficult for me because it was so unnecessary. Five years after her death, I learned the horrifying circumstances surrounding Caroline's death and how her case was mishandled by the authorities. I was devastated. During the past year there have been numerous articles in major publications throughout the country detailing Caroline's death and how the grand jury proceeding was mishandled by District Attorney Jackie Johnson.
I implore you to direct District Attorney Johnson to request that Governor Deal appoint a special prosecutor to conduct a second grand jury proceeding. I do not ask this to seek revenge. I simply want the truth to be told. And I do not ask this just for myself. Caroline's two daughters, my granddaughters, deserve to know that their mother’s death has been fully and fairly investigated and truthfully reported.
The story that was initially fed to the media to justify the wrongful actions of the Glynn County police officers was not the truth. On June 19, 2010, the headlines of the Brunswick News read "Woman shot trying to run down police." However, the police dash cam video clearly shows that Caroline’s car was trapped. Neither officer was in danger when they fired 8 shots at Caroline at point-blank range. The officers’ behavior afterward, also documented in the dash cam video, showed their callous disregard for Caroline’s life. Caroline was not a violent person who was trying to harm the law enforcement officers. She was a loving mother who struggled with mental illness. Caroline was afraid and trapped in her car.
Without a full and fair investigation with a special prosecutor, Caroline's daughters will grow up under a cloud of confusion and false information about this tragic event. They have been deprived of a mother; they should not be deprived of the truth. In the past year much has been uncovered and reported in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and other publications about the first grand jury proceeding. My family and I could never feel that justice has been done unless Ms. Johnson steps aside and requests that Governor Deal appoint a special prosecutor. In addition, the second grand jury proceeding should be carried out according to the newly adopted procedures of Georgia HB 941 which takes effect July 1, 2016.
In closing, please ask yourself - how would you feel if your child or grandchild had been killed by the police? Wouldn't you want the truth? I know that nothing will ever bring Caroline back. However, YOU have the opportunity to take some steps to make something right come out of an event that was so tragically wrong. Sincerely,