Re: Justice for Caroline McGehee Small Dear Governor Deal and Attorney General Olens:
We write on behalf of Karen McGehee, mother of Caroline Small. Caroline was shot and killed by two Glynn County Police officers on June 18, 2010. We formed our organization several months ago after investigative reports in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and on Channel 2 Action News revealed the disturbing truth about the circumstances of Caroline’s death and of District Attorney (“DA”) Jackie Johnson’s subsequent mishandling of the grand jury proceeding that exonerated the two officers.1 Our group now numbers approximately 100 people and continues to grow. Many of us knew Caroline as she grew up in our church. We were horrified to see the video recording of two police officers firing eight shots at Caroline. They fired at point blank range through the windshield of her automobile while it was clearly trapped and disabled. Caroline posed no credible threat to any police officer or bystander when the officers opened fire.
The officers’ behavior in the aftermath, also documented in the video, showed their callous disregard for Caroline’s life:
The video shows that neither officer checked to see if Caroline was still alive. Instead, the officers bragged on their marksmanship. 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.”
Caroline survived in a coma for seven excruciating days before she was removed from life support.
We wish to acknowledge that the behavior of Georgia Highway Patrol Officers was exemplary and beyond reproach. A Highway Patrol Officer started to handle the situation appropriately by pulling Caroline out of the automobile, but retreated when he saw the Glenn County Police officers pointing their weapons at her. After the shooting Highway Patrol Officers rendered aid until medical personnel arrived. However, it is clear to us that it was completely unnecessary for the two Glynn County police officers to shoot Caroline. It is beyond question that the shooting was an unreasonable use of deadly force.
Moreover, the most recent AJC article and Channel 2 news report based on compelling interviews with four former prosecutors from the Brunswick DA office, show convincingly that DA Jackie Johnson’s egregious conduct after the shooting violated Georgia law and prevented a full and fair hearing by the grand jury that exonerated the officers. It is an understatement to say that justice was not done in this case.
On behalf of Karen McGehee, we appeal to you, as the chief law enforcement officers of the State of Georgia, to do the following:
Direct the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (“GBI”) to investigate the conduct of the Glynn County police, both in Caroline’s death and in regard to police officers’ subsequent interference in the GBI investigation following the shooting and the presentation of inaccurate evidence to the grand jury.
Governor Deal, it is our understanding that you have both plenary power under the Georgia Constitution and statutory powers under Georgia law to direct the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing by any Georgia official. We ask that you exercise your powers to order an investigation into whether DA Jackie Johnson violated her Oath of Office and Georgia law by her actions in this matter, including by failing to present an indictment to the grand jury, allowing the officers’ attorneys to cross-examine witnesses, and allowing the officers to show the grand jury a factually inaccurate and misleading “animated reenactment of the shooting” prepared by the Glynn County Police Department. Overall, DA Johnson’s conduct in this case shows such a strong bias toward the police that it raises doubt about whether she can be trusted to protect Georgia citizens from the real, although very rare, threat of unjustified police violence.
Direct the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (“POST”) to investigate the police officers’ conduct and, if warranted, to cancel their certification to serve as police officers. It is clear to us that these officers are a continuing danger to the public. It is incumbent upon you, as Georgia’s chief law enforcement officers, to insure that only qualified and responsible individuals serve as law enforcement officers in Georgia.
In conclusion, on behalf of Karen McGehee, we implore you to order full and fair investigations of the terrible circumstances of her daughter, Caroline Small’s, death. We also believe it will be important for you to make the results of these investigations available to the public to restore public confidence in state oversight of Georgia’s law enforcement agencies. We would appreciate an opportunity to meet with you to discuss these matters. Thank you for your attention.
Robert C. Apgar, Chairman
Justice for Caroline McGehee Small
and Children, LLC
1 The articles and news reports may be viewed at http//investigations.myajc.com/caroline-small-shooting/ and http://investigations.myajc.com/overtheline/#da-misconcuct. We are indebted to reporters Brad Schrade and Jodie Fleischer for exposing the true circumstances of Caroline’s death and the subsequent cover-up.