• Couple plans to sue county, officers one year after wrong house shooting

    By: Jodie Fleischer

    Updated:

    DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - For the first time, a young couple is speaking about the night police officers barged into the wrong home and opened fire.

    "I just start screaming at the top of my lungs why are you in my house? What are you doing here?" recalls Chris McKinley.

    The officers shot him in the leg, killed the family's dog and even shot one of their own officers.

    It happened last August on Boulderwoods Drive in East Atlanta, which is part of DeKalb County.


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    Chris and his wife, Leah McKinley were watching a movie on the couch in their den, when they heard a strange noise and went to check it out.  They slowly opened the door between the den and their kitchen, and saw three men standing there.

    "As I'm opening it, pow pow pow pow pow," said Chris, adding that he hadn't even made it all the way into his kitchen, when the officers started shooting.

    At the time, he and his wife didn't realize it was police, they thought they were being robbed.

    "It was five shots and I thought they just murdered him, they're going to come for me and they're going to get my baby. And that's all I could think about," said Leah, in an exclusive interview with Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer.

    Officers had to open two closed doors before encountering the family. It was still daylight and the doors were unlocked. The couple's 1-year-old son was asleep just a few feet from gunfire. When it was over, their 10-year-old boxer, Yanna, was dead on the kitchen floor.

    Yanna, a 10-year-old boxer, was killed in the gunfire.
    Yanna, a 10-year-old boxer, was killed in the gunfire.
    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

    "Watching her do exactly what a dog is supposed to do. All she did was warn us, she didn't bite them, she just warned us by barking that, 'Hey someone's not supposed to be in here and you're not safe,'" said Chris.

    He eventually realized one of the bullets had hit him in the leg, it required a year of physical and emotional therapy.

    "It carries this hard, heavy, heavy weight on your heart. And it really screws with you," said Chris.

    Filled with anxiety, the couple had to move from the home they loved, and the visual reminders they just couldn't stand to see.

    Chris and Leah McKinley with their son
    Chris and Leah McKinley with their son
    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

    "I can't turn it off. I see it all the time, I imagine it all the time, if I hear noises if I'm at home by myself," said Leah.

    They say the officers never even tried to help Chris after wounding him, they were more concerned about one of their own officers, who was also hit by their own gunfire.

    "For someone to not be accountable for their actions is extremely hurtful," said Leah.

    The couple thought by now, they'd know why it all happened.

    The officers were responding to a 911 call of a suspicious person at the far end of the couple's street, in a cul de sac. They later said dispatchers did not provide a house number, only a vague description of the color of the home, which resembled the McKinley house.

    The description of the suspicious person was that of a 50-year-old black man. The couple is white.

    "And here we are a year later and nothing has been answered," said Chris.

    Police admit they were at the wrong house, but clearly violated department policies.

    In addition to shooting Chris and killing Yanna, they accidentally shot a fellow officer, which policies are clearly designed to prevent.

    Travis Jones, Quhanna Lloyd and Timothy Harden
    Travis Jones, Quhanna Lloyd and Timothy Harden
    © 2019 Cox Media Group.

    Then when they wrote out the incident report, they listed the wounded officer as the victim and Chris McKinley as the offender.

    "It's just a slap in the face and a reminder of the incompetence from the very beginning until now still," said Chris.

    The report also lists the wrong address of the house, describes Yanna as a pit bull, and says Chris 'burst out of a closed door', which he says he hadn't even finished opening when the officers opened fire.

    "They were trying to spin a story that would protect them, that would cover what they did," said the couple's attorney, Mark Bullman.

    Leah says DeKalb investigators kept trying to suggest Chris had a gun, which he didn't.

    "We're good people. I'm a teacher. I'm not doing anything wrong. And because they made a poor choice they're going to try to blame us," said Leah.

    Police conducted an internal investigation, which they've yet to release. WSB-TV filed an open records request for it and other records 10 days ago.

    "I would have thought that if they were going to perform an investigation they would ask the victims, and nothing, not a word this entire year," said Chris.

    The couple now plans to sue the county and the officers, in hopes of getting answers and maybe an apology.

    "To at least force them into accountability if they're not willing to admit they did anything wrong," said Leah.

    DeKalb Police Chief James Conroy said his heart goes out to the McKinley family and confirmed that his department did do a review of the incident. He said he could not comment on the facts of the case because of potential litigation, but vowed to make the requested records available as quickly as possible.

    The Georgia Bureau of Investigation finished its review of this case last September, but refused to provide a copy, as the case is still pending in the DeKalb District Attorney's office.

    The case is expected to be presented to a civil grand jury to review the officers' actions and determine whether a criminal investigation is needed.

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