• Unlikely activists call for justice after Channel 2 police shooting investigation


    ATLANTA - When Karen McGehee's daughter was shot and killed by police in Glynn County, the family's closest friends thought they knew what had happened.

    Now, five years later, after watching a Channel 2 Action News - Atlanta Journal Constitution investigation, they are jumping into action and rallying to support their friend of nearly 40 years.

    "We're finding the truth now, and none of us like it," said Wayne McDaniel, a retired public health official in Florida.

    McDaniel was at Caroline Small's hospital bedside in 2010 after two Glynn County police officers shot her eight times through her car windshield.

    Police confronted Caroline while she was parked in a mall parking lot after a passerby noticed her looking distraught and called 911. Her family says she'd been diagnosed with a mental condition and believes that she was experiencing a dissociative episode when she drove off. Police chased her, at low speeds, for nearly 20 minutes before stopping her car and shooting her.

    "The first thing I had was anger (because of) my family's 40-50 years in law enforcement," said McDaniel. "This is not the law enforcement we're used to. We're old-time, white, middle-class people."

    The group looks more like a bridge club than activists who would question a police shooting.

    It includes several retired school teachers, attorneys, and a pastor who were all part of McGehee's church family for several decades. Caroline grew up with their children.

    "This helps me, this group of people," said McGehee. "They just all decided something had to be done. There was such love and care and concern for Caroline and for me. I just couldn't believe it. I felt like they were angels."

    McDaniel said the details that he knew about the shooting troubled him over the years.

    "This child was one of our children, suffered from mental illness, drug abuse and other things, but she wasn't a killer. She had no gun, she had nothing that could harm them," he said.

    McDaniel never understood why a grand jury cleared the officers, until July, when a Channel 2 Action News - Atlanta Journal Constitution investigation raised questions, not only about the shooting, but the secret dealings that Glynn District Attorney Jackie Johnson had that helped clear the officers. 

    "I felt like she rigged the system," said McDaniel.

    Johnson agreed not to show the grand jury the murder indictment that she had drafted.

    Records show that she'd already given the officers' attorneys all the evidence.

    She also allowed the officers' department to present a factually inaccurate animation that created showing Caroline's car escaping through a gap and running over the officers, which experts say could not have happened.

    McGehee was stunned.

    "They were either facts that I was oblivious to, or in too much of a shock that I didn't know about those things," she said. "It's one thing for people to do the wrong thing, but it's another thing if you cover it up."

    The grand jury voted to clear the officers in 2011 and a judge dismissed a civil lawsuit in 2014.

    McGehee and her friends had never seen the police video of the shooting, or heard the officers comparing their marksmanship afterward. Officer Todd Simpson can be heard remarking, "I got her right between the eyes."

    "To me that was really disturbing that somebody could treat (Small) almost as though she wasn't human," said group member Kay Allen, "I just wanted to be there for (Karen), and I want to see that justice is done as well."

    The group has started an online petition and a "Justice for Caroline" Facebook page, hoping for support within Glynn County.

    "I would like to see a full and fair investigation of the facts," group organizer Frank Walper said,

    He plans to reach out to the justice department, the Georgia governor, and Georgia's POST Council, the state agency that certifies police officers.

    "Justice was not done here. This wrong needs to be righted," said group member Bob Apgar. "At the very least so that it'll be less likely that anything like this will happen again.

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