Police enter wrong house, shoot resident, his dog and officer

A DeKalb Police officer works from his car at the scene of an officer-involved shooting Monday where police responded to the wrong house on a burglary call. Ben Gray/bgray@ajc.com

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A DeKalb Police officer works from his car at the scene of an officer-involved shooting Monday where police responded to the wrong house on a burglary call. Ben Gray/bgray@ajc.com

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A DeKalb County couple was watching a romantic comedy, “Serendipity,” when police charged through their unlocked back door and opened fire.

They wounded the man who lived there, shooting him in the leg, killed a dog and, in a case of friendly fire, sent one of their own to the hospital Monday night.

The three officers were responding to a report of a possible burglary in progress in the Gresham Park neighborhood, but it turns out they had arrived at the wrong house. Police entered the single-story, brick-and-tan home because it fit the description given in a 911 call.

A neighbor, Tama Colson, gave first aid to Chris McKinley after she heard gunshots.

“Chris just kept saying, ‘Why did they shoot me? Why did they shoot my dog?’” Colson said.

Now the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is reviewing the case, the latest in a string of controversial officer-involved shootings in the county.

Nine months ago, police responded to a 911 call, killed a three-legged pit bull and fatally shot a South DeKalb resident, Kevin Davis.

In that case, police were answering Davis' report that a man had stabbed his girlfriend, and Officer Joseph Pitts shot Davis when he didn't drop his gun, police said. Davis was demanding to know why Pitts had shot his dog, and Davis wasn't pointing the gun at the officer, said DeKalb Public Safety Director Cedric Alexander.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has identified 65 times in which Georgians were fatally shot at their homes since 2010, incidents that often originate with 911 calls for help.

Alexander said police have been forthright in how they handled Monday’s incident, and they requested the GBI’s outside inquiry.

“Are we perfect? Absolutely not. But when we find that we made a mistake, we own it. We own the fact that we were at the wrong house,” he said. “We didn’t hide it. We didn’t mismanage it. We were at the wrong location based on information that was given to us.”

In March, an officer shot and killed a 27-year-old Air Force veteran who was unarmed and naked outside his Chamblee apartment complex. Alexander said the man, Anthony Hill, ran at the officer and ignored warnings to stop during an apparent mental health breakdown.

A grand jury is reviewing the Hill and Davis cases and will make a recommendation about whether DeKalb District Attorney Robert James should seek indictments against the police officers involved.

Two years ago, an officer mistakenly shot a 16-year-old Southwest DeKalb High School student whom he was chasing because he believed the teen was a burglary suspect. The boy, who ran because he thought he was in trouble for skipping school, was shot in the arm and survived.

About a dozen DeKalb business owners and community members said during a press conference Tuesday that residents shouldn’t turn against their police.

“We want this community to be the model for the rest of the country for how we handle conflicts among ourselves and police – with levelheadedness and demanding answers for all questions without resorting in violence,” said Harmel Deanne Codi, chairwoman of the Coalition for Better Public Governance.

Jerome Edmondson, who owns a call center, said people need to be able to trust their police if they want to rid their communities of crime.

“I do not want our police officers afraid to police because we are looking at every individual situation as a police issue,” he said. “There is some work we have to do with our police department.”

GBI spokesman Scott Dutton said that when the DeKalb officers approached the back of McKinley’s house, they found an unlocked screen and unlocked door and believed an intruder was inside, according to police. Officers entered the home through the unlocked door that led to the kitchen and announced their presence.

Two officers fired their guns at the dog in the kitchen, and then McKinley was shot as he exited a room next to the kitchen, Dutton said. Officer Travis Jones was shot in the hip — apparently by another officer — and is in serious but stable condition. McKinley’s leg wound was treated and he was released from the hospital.

McKinley, who was on crutches Tuesday morning and recovering at home, declined to speak to a reporter.

The three officers involved in the incident have been placed on paid administrative leave, said Interim DeKalb Police Chief James Conroy. They are Jones, Quhanna Lloyd and Timothy Harden, according to the GBI.

“In light of everything going on in the country right now, anytime officers have to respond to a call, they’re checking and double checking themselves,” Alexander said. “A lot of the criticisms and mockeries they’ve sustained across the country and even locally is just unfair. They have a tough job.”

After the GBI completes its investigation, its findings will be turned over to the district attorney.

Police later located the house where the possible robbery had been reported and found nothing out of place, Conroy said. The GBI found no indication of criminal activity at McKinley’s residence.