Caroline McGehee Small Shooting “What we didn’t know and why we are involved” Justice for Caroline Small Group
It was not until we read a July 5, 2015 article by Atlanta Journal-Constitution by reporter Brad Schrade, thatwe began to grasp the true circumstances surrounding the shooting death of Caroline Small. Like most people, we believe police officers are truthful. When initial press reports said that Caroline was shot and killed because she was attempting to run down two police officers, we believed the reports, although it seemed totally out of character with the Caroline Small we all knew. However, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, and TV news reports by Channel 2 Action News reporter Jodi Fleishcer, set out a compelling narrative of unjustified police violence. We were stunned, and horrified. The information below is our group’s summary of the critical facts revealed in the press reports. Much of the information stated below is directly documented by a police dash cam video of the shooting, and interviews with Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) agents and others.
In our opinion, the shooting was completely unjustified, and justice was not done by the investigations and grand jury proceedings that followed. We seek justice for Caroline Small.
Summary of Facts
The following facts are based on the dash cam video from a police car involved in the pursuit.
The incident began with a “low-speed chase,” not exceeding 35 mph for about 4 miles.
Caroline was obviously disoriented. Her car weaved erratically from one side of the road to the other.
A highway patrolman ran her car off the road; the highway patrol car pinned Caroline’s car against a telephone pole and fence.
A second police car (with the dash cam) stopped directly in front of her vehicle, almost touching it.
Caroline shifted into reverse, then pulled forward in an ineffectual attempt to escape. By that time all the tires on the car were flat, and some were worn away completely.
A highway patrolman attempted to help Caroline and can be heard to say “let me get her out of there” and runs behind her automobile, but retreats when he sees two Glynn County police with guns pointed at Caroline.
The officers, standing to the side, out of view of the dash cam, repeatedly scream “get out the car” while sirens blare. It is doubtful that Caroline could hear or understand them. The dash cam and subsequent news photos clearly show that Caroline’s car was trapped.
Caroline pulled forward, striking the bumper of the parked police car. The officers immediately fire 8 shots through the windshield. The dash cam video shows that no officer is in danger of being run over by Caroline’s car at the time shots were fired.
The officers’ behavior in the aftermath, also documented in the dish cam video, shows their callous disregard for Caroline’s life.
The police video shows that neither officer checked to see if Caroline was still alive. One officer stated: “I hit her right in the face … right on the bridge of the nose.”
A bystander, a former firefighter, asked if he should render aid. An officer told him no, saying “she’s dead. I shot her in the head. Her head exploded.”
Georgia Highway Patrol officers rendered aid until medical personnel arrived. Caroline survived in a coma for another five days before she was removed from life support.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) investigation of the shooting was impeded by the local police department.
The Glynn County police apparently moved a vehicle to make the gap between police vehicles appear larger, and produced a video that misrepresented the distance between parked police vehicles to make it appear that Caroline could have run over the officers.
The GBI officer heading the investigation of the shooting said, when interviewed, that he tried to give the officers the benefit of the doubt, but “this is the worst one I ever investigated.” He concluded the officers definitely should have been prosecuted.
After this investigation the GBI changed its procedures to insure that local police could not interfere in future investigations because Glynn County police were so difficult to deal with and uncooperative.
The District Attorney did not fully or fairly present the evidence to the Grand Jury.
The acting DA, who initially considered the case, stated that the officers should be prosecuted. He was soon replaced by the present DA, Jackie Johnson, who was appointed with the recommendation of the police chief after she discussed the case with him.
The new DA asked the DA in neighboring Waycross, GA to review the case. He advised her that the officers should be prosecuted.
The police officers were present during the grand jury proceeding, with their attorneys. Georgia law allows police officers unique rights to be present, with lawyers, during the grand jury deliberations and the right to make a sworn statement to the grand jury.
However, the GBI agent who was present as a witness stated that the DA allowed defense attorneys to cross-examine witnesses and present evidence, and to effectively “take over” the grand jury proceeding. The Grand Jury Handbook published by the Georgia Prosecuting Attorneys Association states: “The accused has the right to be present, with his or her attorney . . . but is not permitted to cross examine the witnesses.”
The DA did not present a draft indictment to the grand jury, telling one grand juror charges were “not available.” Legal experts interviewed by the press agreed that the grand jury process was deeply flawed.
Without any deliberations, the grand jury voted 12-6 to clear the officers. One grand juror interviewed later by the press stated “I think I voted the wrong way, we failed that lady, we failed the process.”
Based on the above, and other facts set out in numerous press reports, we believe the Caroline Small shooting was not justified. Nor was it fully and fairly investigated by Glynn County authorities. On the contrary, there is compelling evidence to support:
a second grand jury proceeding that complies with Georgia law
a federal investigation of violations of Caroline Small’s civil rights during the shooting, and afterward;
a federal investigation of the Glynn County police department’s interference with investigators; and
a review of the actions and behaviors of the police officer(s) by the responsible agency of the State of Georgia.