Officer cleared in teen's shooting death

by: Jodie Fleischer Updated:



The Cherokee County district attorney has found no wrongdoing on the part of the SWAT team officer who fired the fatal bullet in the shooting death of a Woodstock teenager.

Andrew Messina was killed last month during a standoff with Cherokee County Sheriff's Office deputies after the boy obtained his father's .357 Magnum revolver and made threats to hurt himself and others around him. Messina was 16 years old.

More than an hour and a half after police surrounded the house in the Eagle Watch neighborhood of Woodstock following a 911 call by the teen's mother, officers witnessed Messina break through a glass door with the pistol and point it towards negotiators. Seconds later, Deputy Jason Yarborough fired a single shot that hit Messina in his lower torso. Messina was transported to Kennestone Hospital where he died of his wounds.

While the teen's parents initially expressed anger at authorities for using deadly force against their son, District Attorney Garry Moss found no evidence to support the prosecution of Yarborough upon reviewing the GBI's investigation of the incident. Yarborough, who had been stationed as a sniper across the street, told investigators that he "felt there was a deadly threat towards the negotiators and he had an obligation to protect them."

When the teen broke through the glass door using the revolver, the SWAT team officer heard two popping noises that sounded like gun shots and fired a single shot at Messina. "He believed Messina was firing the pistol through the front door towards the negotiators and other deputies near the front door," the report states.
The GBI released its 725-page report as part of an open records request, as well as audio recordings and three videos Messina filmed on his iPhone during the standoff.

Cherokee County Sheriff Roger Garrison says that the disturbing videos are a clear illustration of the challenges his officers faced that evening. He stressed that every effort was made to bring the matter to a peaceful ending and he hopes the community can begin to heal.

One video shows Messina holding the loaded gun to his head, while another shows him threatening to "do something" if police officers attempted to enter the house.

"The police are here, I set it up for you to see. You want to see me blow someone's brains out?" Messina said as he turned on the camera to film one video.
In the final recording, the teen informs a crisis negotiator that he is intoxicated and had doused the house in alcohol with the intention of setting it on fire.

Channel 2 spoke with an uncle of the teenager, who says that while the parents of the boy are upset, they respect the district attorney's decision not to pursue charges against Yarborough.