Gwinnett County

Gwinnett DA charges driver who hit, killed 4-year-old in Mall of Georgia parking lot

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — The Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office has charged the driver who hit and killed a 4-year-old girl in a mall parking lot.

On March 10, Abigail Hernandez was with her father and her 7-year-old sister when Gwinnett County police say an 18-year-old driver hit them in front of the Mall of Georgia. Abigail died from her injuries.

Gwinnett County DA Patsy Austin-Gatson told Channel 2 Action News in April that her office would consider misdemeanor charges against the teen driver.

On Friday, officials held a news conference where Austin-Gatson announced that the 18-year-old driver, Jacob Andrew Johnston, was being charged with two counts after hitting and killing Hernandez.

When Channel 2′s Tyisha Fernandes asked why it took so long to charge Johnston in this case, Austin-Gatson said they did not have enough evidence at the time, but do now.

Fernandes asked Austin-Gatson if politics played a role in the decision to charge the teen.

“For you to even ask that question is almost disgraceful,” Austin-Gatson said.

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The Hernandez family has been pushing for justice for their daughter since her death.

When Gwinnett police completed its investigation, they determined the driver should not face criminal charges. They said Johnston stayed on the scene and cooperated with police.

The DA’s office said they decided to seek charges after seeing the video about the incident.

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“That’s the beauty of our system is that the decisions don’t merely rest with one authority. We have checks and balances,” a DA’s office staff member said. “Periodically, the DA’s office and the police will see things slightly different, but it rests in our domain whether we pursue it and go forward.”

The driver is charged with homicide by vehicle in the second degree and reckless conduct. Each charge can carry up to a year in prison.

Fernandes reached out to police for comment but they didn’t have one.

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