‘An empty feeling’: Ex-firefighter tried to save 6-month-old shot in Atlanta

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Every time a car speeds past the construction zone in northwest Atlanta where he works, former firefighter Gage Scarborough immediately looks up thinking the worst is about to happen.

Just over a week ago and a few steps down the road, it did. That afternoon, he tried to save 6-month-old Grayson Fleming-Gray by performing CPR after a bullet, fired from a speeding SUV, pierced the baby’s skull outside a corner store, according to police.

The sudden, loud bang caused all of Scarborough’s co-workers to turn their heads as they saw the SUV and another vehicle rush down Anderson Avenue on Jan. 24.

“We didn’t really know what it was at first,” Scarborough told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from outside the Food Mart on Monday afternoon. “I saw the mother and the child pull into the store. And then I saw her get out of the car. She was fine at first. I don’t think she really knew what happened.”

“Then I saw her go to the back of the car,” he continued. “And I saw her drop to her knees, and that’s when I knew something was wrong.”

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At that point, Scarborough was already walking in that direction. It was his instinct as a former firefighter of six years to try to help Grayson’s mother, Kerri Gray.

Scarborough watched as Gray held her baby, tears running down her face as she called 911 for help, and he introduced himself. Gray told the AJC the day after the shooting that Scarborough asked if he could help. She said she never got his name, but appreciated that he took over the 911 call for her as she struggled to speak through the horror. The mother then handed over her lifeless child, allowing Scarborough to lie him on the cold asphalt and examine him.

“I started CPR and then I realized that there was no fight,” Scarborough said.

He was sure at that moment the baby was gone. The bullet went straight through Grayson’s eye, he said, and he felt no exit wound as he held the boy’s small body in his arms. The only telling marker was the bright blood flowing from his eye like teardrops.

“He looked normal. I mean, if you were to look at him, you would have never known that he was shot,” Scarborough said.

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Scarborough waited on the line with emergency dispatch while Gray spoke to Grayson’s father, Shawn Fleming, on the phone. Scarborough said those short moments waiting for authorities to arrive felt like a lifetime as he tried to keep his emotions under control.

“It was an empty feeling. I tried to stay strong for the mother,” he said. “I was empty. I was more ticked off that an innocent child lost his life due to somebody’s stupidity.”

When police and paramedics arrived, Scarborough said he walked slowly to the outskirts of the police tape and paid attention to how Grayson was handled. He knew they would exhaust every option, only to come to the same devastating conclusion as he did.

The suspected shooter, 22-year-old Dequasie Johnathan Little, was arrested on charges of felony murder and aggravated assault the day after the incident. A second suspect, Sharice Michelle Ingram, later surrendered and was arrested on the same charges. Investigators believe Ingram was driving the SUV.

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In the two months he has been working at the construction site, Scarborough can remember hearing gunshots on two other occasions. They were always muffled echoes in the background, never close enough for him to look up for more than a few seconds to assess the danger.

Scarborough now finds it difficult to return to work. He passes by the growing memorial of plush toys at the Food Mart, a daily reminder of the trauma he and the Gray family endured.

“I don’t really care for this place no more,” he said “And it’s not the community itself, I love everybody right here in this part of the community. I just don’t care for seeing this site. Being right here, being down there, coming to work — it’s all the same. I just don’t care for it.”

As a father to a 5-year-old boy, Scarborough has made an effort to spend more time with his son after watching Gray lose her only child to random violence.

“You never know when something’s going to happen,” he said. “Yeah, I mean, it’s just a split second, and he could be gone or I could be gone.”

A funeral service for Grayson was held Tuesday morning at the Willie Watkins Funeral Home.