Brunswick resident and activist Jeff Kilgore in March requested that a grand jury revisit the 2010 fatal shooting of Caroline Small by Glynn County Police.
The Glynn County District Attorney’s Office granted the request on March 29, eight days after Kilgore submitted it. But the grand jury wanted Kilgore to address it at 11 a.m. the next day, March 30, which Kilgore said was not enough time to prepare, according to an email exchange between Kilgore and Darren Jones, the Clerk of Superior Court.
Kilgore then made a second request to address the grand jury, Jones said. That request was denied sometime in late April, he said.
Kilgore said last week that he will continue to seek an audience with the grand jury, contending he believes Small’s death deserves another hearing.
“What they don’t understand is, I don’t give up,” Kilgore said.
Two Glynn County police officers shot Small several times on June 18, 2010, after a 20-minute low-speed chase that ended when police hemmed her Buick Century between two patrol cars and a telephone pole. Officers Robert Sasser and Todd Simpson then shot eight times into the front windshield after Small continued to rock the car back and forth on flat tires.
Simpson passed away in March after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Small, 35, a mother of two who struggled with drug addiction and mental illness, died several days later in a Savannah hospital.
District Attorney Jackie Johnson presented the case in August 2011 to a Glynn County Grand Jury, which returned a no bill declaring there was insufficient evidence to indict. In response to a subsequent civil suit, the 11th Circuit U.S. District Court of Appeals upheld a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood that the shooting was unfortunate, but did not violate Small’s constitutional rights.
Kilgore is among those who would like to see a new investigation into the case. In his March 21 letter, Kilgore asked to address the grand jury concerning the shooting of Small.
The federal ruling only pertained to whether Small’s constitutional civil rights had been violated in the shooting. The ruling does not mean criminal prosecution cannot be sought against the officers in Superior Court.
“The purpose of this letter is to request permission to appear before the grand jury in the matter of the shooting of Caroline Small ... ,” Kilgore said. “This request is based on two criteria which I will be able to prove conclusively as follows: The information presented to the 2010 grand jury was not complete. The information presented to the 2011 grand jury was false.”
Kilgore requested “a minimum of 72 hours notice as to the date and time designated” to prepare for his presentation to the grand jury. On March 29, Jones told Kilgore via email that the grand jury had agreed to see him at 11 a.m. the next day, March 30.
“Jeff, ... Tried to reach you but your phone is busy,” Jones wrote in an email. “The grand jury wanted you to come in tomorrow March 30, 2016 at 11 a.m. If this time is not acceptable please let me know so I can pass the word along to them.”
Kilgore declined, saying he did not have time to prepare.
“Yes, (I) said no,” Kilgore said last week. “I wouldn’t have had time to make the presentation I wanted to make. I wanted to go in there with the understanding that all I wanted was their undivided attention for 45 minutes. In retrospect, I probably should have taken that opportunity.”
Kilgore instead was asked to submit a second request to the grand jury. His correspondence was relayed to the grand jury by Jones and Mark Spaulding, the District Attorney’s office administrator. The grand jury denied his second request the next month in an undated memo signed by the jury foreman.
Jones said the letter was waiting in his office on April 29 when he returned from four days of court clerk training. “I came back on April 29 and there was the letter sitting on my chair when I got back,” Jones said.
Spaulding said he was merely a go-between.
“Our office acts a conduit for the grand jury,” he said. “The grand jury originally had said they would meet with Mr. Kilgore. The grand jury subsequently came back and said they discussed it further and on the second request decided not to meet with him.”
Kilgore’s attempts followed those of a former grand jury member, a St. Simons Island retiree who attended the Jan. 29 meeting hosted by the group Justice for Caroline Small at Old City Hall in Brunswick. The grassroots group claims allegations raised last year about possible evidence being withheld from the 2011 grand jury warrant a new investigation in the Small case. Jury member Frank Booker agreed, saying he planned to raise the question with his fellow grand jury members.
However, that grand jury’s term ended before he could take action, Spaulding said. A judge denied Booker’s request to be appointed to the present grand jury, which convened in March, Spaulding said. Grand juries are appointed every six months.
This is not Kilgore’s first foray into civic activism. The financial consultant was at the forefront of the successful effort to keep the new county jail from being built in Brunswick. He also has been vocal in speaking out about expansion by the Brunswick campus of the Southeast Georgia Health System into surrounding neighborhoods.
Kilgore said he will continue to seek an audience with the grand jury concerning the Small case.
“I want to say to (the jury) that the facts behind this case have been distorted, that the grand jury was not given all the factual events,” Kilgore said. “I want to request that they would vote to have Jackie Johnson to recuse herself, and that they submit a request to the attorney general for a special prosecutor to investigate the Small case.”