A Georgia cop said he was not shooting at a trio of kids running home after hopping out of a car as initially reported over the weekend.
Instead, Waycross Police Lieutenant Scott Rowell said he was shooting at the two teens who remained in the car Saturday morning, claiming he was in fear for his life because the car was headed right towards him.
But Rowell said he forgot to turn on his body camera so there is no video evidence confirming his story.
The two brothers who remained in the car, a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old, said they were the ones who were in fear for their lives because a cop car had been following them for several blocks without turning on its lights.
They said they stopped the car to allow their younger brothers to get out and began to drive slowly away, expecting to get pulled over. They said they were just being protective of their younger siblings and a friend, ages 9, 12 and 14 respectively. They said they hopped out of the car when the shooting started but the car remained in drive and continued moving forward.
Police then pistol-whipped and tasered the 15-year-old, accusing him of trying to take a cop’s gun.
Police charged the two teens with possession of a handgun by a person under 18 because they found a gun in the glove compartment. The gun is legal and owned by their mother who apparently had left it in the car. The teens said they did not even know it was there.
The 16-year-old was also charged with aggravated assault on a police officer and driving without a license. The 15-year-old has been charged obstruction and attempting to take a cop’s gun.
It is clear from the charges that cops are trying to distract from their own actions by trying to criminalize the teens. Local news media reported bullet holes in the side of the car which questions the narrative that the car was headed directly towards the cop but maybe the doors were struck when they were opened.
According to News4Jax:
The younger children previously told News4Jax that as they ran off, bullets “whizzed by” them. GBI investigators said in a news release that they have no evidence to indicate Rowell fired shots at or near the younger children who ran home.
“We [were] driving off slowly to get away so he could follow us, and not my little brothers and sisters. Next thing you know, he was firing at the gas tank and it went rolling that way,” said Boyd. “We got out right here and put our hands up and he steady saying, ‘if y’all don’t get on the ground, we will shoot.‘
“He told me, ‘Put your hands up,’ so I put my hands up,” Boyd said. “Then next thing you know, he came and hit me in my eye with the gun, and then the other officer came up and tased me on my back.”
The GBI confirmed Shook used a taser on one of the juveniles but investigators stated that Shook “had to utilize his taser to secure one of the juveniles in handcuffs” following an altercation between the second officer and the 15-year-old.
Wayford police officer Jesse Shook said he began following the car after noticing it had run a stop sign. Shook said he did not activate his lights but was following the car for several blocks to view the license plate. At one point, he called for backup which is how Rowell showed up to the scene and started shooting.
However, this narrative is also questionable because if the cop truly did see the car run a stop sign, then it would have pulled the car over at that moment rather than continue to follow it. Also, cops should be able to view the license plate without having to follow the car for several blocks unless it was obstructed.
Furthermore, was it really necessary to call for backup over a car running a stop sign but making no attempt to flee the cops other than the children being allowed to run home when they pulled in front of their house?
The incident is being investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation which is a relief considering the local district attorney is George Barnhill, the same prosecutor who claimed the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery were acting in self-defense. It was not until the GBI took over the investigation that three men were arrested in the shooting death of Arbery.