Waycross officer who shot at teens in traffic stop resigns

Teens involved were exceeding 120 mph before shooting incident, 911 calls show

Waycross officers under investigation after two teenagers were shot at and detailed during a traffic stop on Aug. 8.
Waycross officers under investigation after two teenagers were shot at and detailed during a traffic stop on Aug. 8. (WJXT)

WAYCROSS, Ga. – Lt. Scott Rowell, who Waycross police identified as the officer who fired multiple shots at a car containing two teenagers one week ago, has resigned, the department confirmed Saturday.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Thursday that Rowell and a second officer did not turn on their body cameras during a traffic stop that ended in an officer shooting at two teenagers inside the car that they said was advancing on them.

Waycross community leaders say a resignation from the officer who shot at a car with two teens inside is not enough.

They say they want his certification stripped and an arrest.

News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said charges would be preliminary and they must wait for the investigation to unfold, but he says on the surface it doesn’t look good for the officer.

Community leaders say more has to be done to hopefully prevent something like this from happening again.

“We could’ve been doing their funerals today,” Rev. Fer-Rell M. Malone, leader of the Justice Initiative, said of the teens. “It’s totally unacceptable and there needs to be direct intervention from the community.”

In 911 audio from minutes before the officer-involved shooting, officers can be heard saying the teens, along with their younger siblings who rode in a car with them, exceeded 120 miles per hour at times.

The 911 calls and a computer-aided dispatch report on the incident were provided to News4Jax by Sean Simmons, a Waycross attorney. Simmons obtained the calls through a public records request to the Ware County 911 center. The center’s director says at the request of the Waycross Police Department, the office is no longer releasing the records because the case is under investigation.

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In the calls, Officer Jesse Shook can be heard saying he was following a silver Acura he saw speeding near the local Walmart.

“Can you let the county know there is a vehicle heading south on Memorial at a high rate of speed?” Shook said. “Probably like 100 miles per hour. I tried to catch up and it won’t stop.”

The first officer followed the vehicle for several minutes in an attempt to get license plate information, according to a statement released Tuesday by the GBI. The officer did not switch on his vehicle’s siren or blue emergency lights.

At one point, Shook’s supervisor asks over the radio if he attempted a traffic stop or if he was not close enough.

“Negative,” said Shook. “Trying to come up behind him.”

The supervisor recommended the officer try to run the car’s tag and then to attempt a traffic stop safely.

RELATED: Teens arrested on gun charges after Georgia police shot at car

What happened next occurred on the street where the 16-year-old driver and his four younger siblings live.

Officer Shook and Lt. Scott Rowell were wearing body-worn cameras but, according to a GBI spokesperson, the two officers did not turn them on. There was also no dashcam video, according to the GBI.

“The officer attempted to turn his body camera on, but the events unfolded so quickly that he didn’t turn it on in time to capture the entire incident,” GBI spokesperson Nelly Miles said.

According to the GBI, as the silver Acura approached Walters and Greenwood Street, three children, ages 9 to 14, exited the vehicle and ran to their home on the same street. Lt. Rowell responded and approached the car with the teenagers still in the driver and passenger seats. According to GBI, the vehicle drove towards Rowell and he fired his handgun multiple times at the vehicle.

The 15-year-old passenger denies the claim that he and his brother drove the car toward the officer saying “he already had the gun out before we even had a chance to stop the car.”

Parents of the teens can be seen on cellphone video begging police to let their children go, as the two laid handcuffed on the ground. The 15-year-old had a gash over his head in the video.

In a 911 call, one caller told dispatchers one of the officers “pistol-whipped” the 15-year-old. According to two GBI narratives on the case, there was an altercation between Rowell and the 15-year-old and Shook used his taser to detain one of the teens.

In an interview with News4Jax, the 15-year-old said, “He told me ‘put your hands up,’ so I put my hands up. Then the next (thing) you know, he came and hit me in my eye with the gun and then the other officer came up and tased me on my back.”

The driver and passenger both face weapons charges and other counts as a result of the incident. Both teens have been released to their parents, according to family.

Officer Shook remains on administrative leave pending the results of the GBI’s investigation.

Jefferson says the officers not using their body cameras raises suspicion and said the reason behind the officer shooting is unclear because there would’ve been damage to the windshield if the car was coming toward him.

Jefferson also says the department may have a policy stating officers are not supposed to shoot at moving cars because officers don’t know where bullets will land unless the car is coming directly towards an officer.

A march through the neighborhood where the shooting took place was being held Saturday morning. Marchers, gathering at Macedonia Baptist Church in Waycross, were also getting names on a petition seeking the removal of both officers involved.

Malone said he is not satisfied with Rowell just being out of the department, he wants him charged with a crime.

“He endangered the welfare of five children without regard to any protocols,” Malone told News4Jax on Saturday. “From what I understand, there is no need for deadly force, especially for a misdemeanor. This was a misdemeanor. This was a run-through of a stop sign and he engaged in deadly force, so he should be arrested.”

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