A family in the south Georgia town of Waycross claims local police fired shots at a vehicle that five Black children ages 9 to 16 had been riding in as the officers try to pull the car over for a traffic violation on Aug. 8. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is now investigating the officer-involved shooting.
According to the GBI, an officer from the Waycross Police Department witnessed a traffic violation early Saturday morning and began to pursue the vehicle in question. After three children ages 9, 12, and 14 exited the car and fled, the officer called for backup. One officer followed the children on foot while the other continued to pursue the vehicle.
The second officer on the scene fired at the car with the two eldest siblings still inside. The boys, 15 and 16, exited the car and were arrested. Their father Dominique Goodwin can be seen and heard in cellphone video of the aftermath of the shooting saying, “My kids, man! Those are children, man! They’re minors, man!” No one was injured by the gunfire.
The three younger children later said the two older teens had gotten scared when they saw police following them, telling the younger kids to get out of the car and run to get their father.
The siblings say they were on their way home from a trip to Walmart, and that the squad car followed them without its cruiser lights on until they were inside their neighborhood.
The younger children also say the officer fired at least seven shots at them as they left the car and began to run home.
“It went past my face,” the 9-year-old boy said. “I could have gotten shot in my face, but they shot the swing.”
The video shows bullet holes in the passenger door of the car.
“We go in the back, we open the door, we see my 9-year-old, my 12-year-old and a 14-year-old running from the police behind them with gunshots coming behind them,” Goodman said. “We go down the street and we see our 15-year-old and our 16-year-old on the ground.”
The 15-year-old boy also said he was pistol-whipped by an officer and tased in the back. In the video, the boy is seen sitting in the police car with blood running down his face.
The teenagers were held at the police station for several hours and face multiple criminal charges. The 16-year old boy who was driving the vehicle faces charges of possession of a handgun by a minor, reckless driving, aggravated assault on a police officer, driving without a license, as well as a stop sign violation.
The 15-year-old is charged with possession of a handgun by a minor, felony obstruction of an officer, and removal or attempt to remove a firearm from an officer.
The father of the children expressed his frustration to a local news station, saying: “They shot at a car full of unarmed minors. A car full of unarmed children. Like who in the world can’t see that this is a 9-year-old? Who can’t see that this is a child? They look like children. They are babies. What was the purpose of shooting?”
None of the officers was injured although one of the boys suffered a minor injury that was treated by paramedics. The officers have been placed on leave as the GBI continues to investigate. The Ware County District Attorney’s Office will review the case following the investigation.
The Atlanta NAACP is calling on the police department to release body camera and dash-camera footage on the incident.