It’s time to stop playing the children’s game of “Hot Potato” with the investigation of the shooting death that occurred on the afternoon of Feb. 23 on Satilla Shores Drive and get to the facts of this case. The community is waiting.
What we know two months later is that two armed white men in a vehicle, a father and his adult son, chased down an unarmed black man who was running on foot along a neighborhood street. When the pair caught up with him, the son accosted the runner, sparking a physical struggle that ended tragically. The armed man alleges his shotgun accidentally went off — twice — when the man he confronted attempted to wrest his weapon from him. They never intended to harm the man, the father and son told police. Their intention was only to question him about alleged burglaries that had occurred in the subdivision in recent days or weeks.
Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jackie Johnson passed this case to a district attorney in Jesup, which is outside her five-county circuit. DA Johnson felt passing the case to a neighboring DA was the right thing to do. She said one of the white men involved in the incident, the father, a former county policeman, worked for her office as an investigator until his retirement.
He was involved in the chase, but it was his son who became entangled in a physical altercation with the man they had stopped to question.
Unfortunately, the DA she passed it to happens to be the father of a man who works in her office in Brunswick. In deference to the wishes of the family of the victim, the Jesup DA stepped away from the case, leaving the state to reassign it to the district attorney in Hinesville, the county seat of Liberty County, which also is outside Johnson’s circuit.
All this passing the case around has managed to do is slow down the investigation. The families of both sides, as well as the community in general, deserve to know the truth, and as quickly as the facts can be determined.
There are those who are upset at the lack of movement on the case, and rightly so. There are just so many unanswered questions, including this one: Is it OK to chase someone who is running on a public street and demand they stop for an interview while armed with loaded weapons, especially when it results in the death of the individual?
We urge the state to follow this investigation closely to ensure it is both thorough and above reproach. Justice is the order of the day. An investigation that collects all the evidence and scrutinizes all facts may fail to satisfy everyone, but it will go a long way in squelching suspicion and putting a lot of people at ease.
At the same time, our leadership and law enforcement must impress upon the community to call police when suspecting someone of a crime.
Taking matters into your own hands can be dangerous and conclude in unintended consequences.