Authorities have arrested a hit-and-run suspect accused of slamming into two young girls as they played in the front yard of a Lithonia home Friday.
Gabriel Jabri Fordham, 28, was arrested Tuesday evening in connection with the wreck, which left 9-year-old LaDerihanna Holmes badly injured.
The case gained national attention after a surveillance video went viral showing a 2017 Ford Fusion speeding down the street and into Holmes, who was playing in her yard with a friend.
But Fordham’s attorney Ryan Williams said his client never meant to hit the girls and that he was trying to fight off a carjacker when the wreck occurred.
“Someone jumped in his vehicle with a pistol, put the gun to his face, (and) made him drive,” Williams told Channel 2 Action News. “My client tried to take the gun from him and the guy hits him in the face and my client blacks out.”
Williams said the man seen running from the car in the surveillance footage is the person responsible and that Fordham never meant to hurt anyone. He said his client wanted to remain at the scene, but took off on foot when Holmes’ family members began to confront him. He also said Fordham called DeKalb police immediately to negotiate a surrender, Channel 2 reported.
Police have not confirmed that account.
Fordham’s arrest warrant only indicates investigators determined the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed when it hit a mailbox and the two young girls playing outside the house on Cherokee Valley Drive in Lithonia.
Holmes remained in the hospital Tuesday evening as Fordham turned himself in at the DeKalb jail. The girl’s friend suffered an injury to her foot, police said.
In a statement issued Wednesday morning, Holmes’ family said they were pleased that “the driver of the vehicle who struck her while she was playing in her front yard has been identified and arrested on a host of charges.” They said they are hopeful the passenger in the car will be found soon.
A GoFundMe account started to collect money for the girl’s medical bills raised more than $46,000 in two days.
“She is a strong little girl and we are hopeful that she will make a full recovery and get back to doing the things she loves,” her family said in the statement.
Jail records show Fordham has a string of arrests in DeKalb dating back to 2008. His previous charges include aggravated battery, aggravated assault, burglary, forgery and a probation violation.
Fordham is now charged with failure to maintain lane, failure to stop at a stop sign, reckless driving, hit and run and serious injury by vehicle, authorities said. He remains held at the county jail.
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