WAYCROSS, Ga. – An outraged Waycross family told News4Jax that five children, one as young as 9, were shot at by police Saturday morning during a traffic stop in their neighborhood.
None of the kids were hit by the gunfire. Two teens were arrested “based on circumstances surrounding the incident,” police said.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which was called in to investigate the officer-involved shooting, the incident began at about 8 a.m. Saturday when a Waycross police officer saw a traffic violation and followed the car to obtain license plate information.
Dominique Goodman Sr. said five kids -- ages 9, 12, 14, 15 and 16 -- were in the car headed back home from a local Walmart when the officer started to follow them.
According to the three youngest children, who spoke with News4Jax, the officer didn’t turn his lights on to pull them over until they had pulled into their own neighborhood near Walters and Greenwood streets.
The 12-year-old said the older teens were scared and told the three youngest kids to jump out of the car and run home to get their father, but when they got out, the officer started shooting, the girl said.
According to GBI, when the three younger children ran off, the first officer followed them in his patrol car while a second officer who responded to assist approached the teens’ car from the front. GBI said the car drove toward the officer, and he fired multiple times.
The 9-year-old told News4Jax at least seven shots were fired and one bullet whizzed by his head.
“It went past my face,” the boy said. “I could have gotten shot in my face, but they shot the swing.”
Our News4Jax team also later saw bullet holes in the car the children had been riding in.
“They shot at a car full of unarmed minors. A car full of unarmed children. Like who in the world can’t see that this is a 9-year-old? Who can’t see that this is a child? They look like children,” Goodman said. “They are babies. What was the purpose of shooting?”
GBI said the older teens in the car jumped out while it was still in drive and it came to a stop further up the road. When the first officer heard the gunfire, he drove back to the traffic stop scene and the children ran home, GBI said.
Goodman, the children’s father, said he heard the gunfire, which sounded close, and stepped outside to find the children running toward the house screaming for help.
“We go in the back, we open the door, we see my 9-year-old, my 12-year-old and a 14-year-old running from the police behind them with gunshots coming behind them,” Goodman said. “We go down the street and we see our 15-year-old and our 16-year-old on the ground.”
GBI said there was an altercation between the 15-year-old and the second officer, and the teen had to be treated for minor injuries by paramedics.
Goodman showed News4Jax cellphone video he captured of the teens being taken into custody. He can be heard pleading with the officers not to shoot the boys.
“They’re minors man! Please!” he says in the video.
Pictures taken at the scene show the 15-year-old with blood dripping down his face as he stands handcuffed by a squad car. No officers were injured during the incident, GBI said.
The teens were both taken from the scene in handcuffs and were held at the police station for hours, the family said. Waycross police later said the teens were facing weapons and other charges.
The 16-year-old has been charged with possession of a handgun by a minor, reckless driving, aggravated assault on a police officer, driving without a license and a stop sign violation, police said. The 15-year-old is charged with possession of a handgun by a minor, felony obstruction of an officer and removal or attempt to remove a firearm from an officer.
Goodman said the children were coming home to get him so they could all go to a football tournament in Jacksonville that two of the children were set to play in Saturday. Instead, their morning was shattered by traumatizing gunfire, Goodman said.
“This is a good neighborhood. All the neighbors are basically kin. To hear gunshots in this neighborhood and to see that it’s our kids being shot at, and everybody in the neighborhood knows our kids. They know they’re not bad kids,” Goodman said. “Our kids almost lose their lives to go to a football game? Man, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. Almost lose their lives going to the football game.”
The GBI said it will continue its independent investigation. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the GBI at 912-389-4103 or the Waycross Police Department at 912-287-2921. Once the investigation is complete, it will be turned over to the Ware County District Attorney’s Office for review.
The Waycross Police Department said both officers involved have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
Atlanta attorney Gerald Griggs, as vice president of the city’s NAACP chapter, said the organization is calling for police to immediately release body camera and dash camera footage of the attempted traffic stop.
“I’m very concerned that shots were fired while children were involved,” Griggs told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’re concerned that level of force was used.”