DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Witnesses now say that a 14-year-old boy who was shot and killed in Lithonia was NOT attempting to rob a man when he was shot, as police had said.
Ricarrio Hale, a freshman at Miller Grove High School in Stonecrest, was killed Sunday at the Aladdin Townhomes. Police initially said he and a friend tried to steal an iPhone 6 from a man they met online and then ran.
Hale was shot in the chest and died at the scene. His 16-year-old friend, who has not been identified, was shot in the arm.
Channel 2′s Tyisha Fernandes talked to witnesses, who said everything happened very differently than police claim.
Witnesses (who asked not to be identified) said a Myzell Neal asked Hale and two other friends to walk to New Birth Church to buy a phone from a man in the parking lot.
They said Hale didn’t know Neal intended to steal the phone.
When Neal decided to grab the phone and run, the seller came out of the car with a gun, the witnesses told Fernandes.
A family spokesperson for Hale, Jacques Hall, confirmed the witnesses' story.
"The kids took off running back behind these townhouses and the gentleman apparently started shooting at them, and the kid who was with them, Ricarrio, was subsequently hit by a couple of bullets and then killed," Hall said.
Hale was the only one killed. The witnesses said Hale wasn't even near the car when it happened.
Hall said the family is upset Hale has been painted as a thief.
"Now, Ricarrio is painted as some sort of suspect or somebody who did a crime, and that's not the case at all," Hall said.
Hall told Fernandes that Neal told police Hale knew about his plans and that’s why police thought Hale was involved in the robbery.
Police said they are still investigating the case to try to figure out who was involved with the theft of the phone. Fernandes learned that there are cameras in the parking lot of the church, which should help police understand what happened.
Hall hopes that police clarify the details of what happened soon.
"Hopefully sooner than later, they’ll get to the bottom of this and recant that story so that his family can sleep and this kid won’t be painted as some kind of criminal at 14 years old," Hall said. "To lose your child by basically a stray bullet ... and for him to be painted in the media as a criminal is absolutely devastating."
Police charged the shooter, Paul Wilson, with felony murder and aggravated assault.
Neal has been charged with misdemeanor theft.
Hale's mother is currently planning his funeral.
"She's just trying to make sense of losing one of her babies," Hall said.
The family has set up a GoFundMe account to help with Hale’s funeral expenses.
© 2020 © 2020 Cox Media Group