Two days after a grand jury declined to indict a former state trooper who was driving 91 mph seconds before crashing into a car of teenagers, those closest to the girls killed gathered for more than two hours Friday. Many in the group expressed shock and anger that Anthony Scott, later fired from his job as a trooper, avoided criminal charges.
Images of Kylie, 17, and Bella, 16, both students at South Paulding High School, were on T-shirts and poster boards. Two brothers carried a 6-foot pink cross with black metal letters nailed on spelling Kylie and Bella.
Mayris Tatum’s pink shirt read “#LL4B,” for live life for Bella. Tatum’s son was Bella’s uncle. But to Tatum, it was like losing her own granddaughter.
“We loved her so much, we called her our baby girl,” Tatum said outside the courthouse.
Kylie and Bella were close friends and in the backseat the night the Nissan Sentra they were riding in was involved in a crash on U.S. 27. Two others — Dillon Lewis Wall, 18, who was driving the Nissan, and Benjamin Alan Finken, 17, both of Douglasville — were also injured in the crash. Neither of the survivors attended Friday's protest.
District Attorney Pete Skandalakis said Thursday that grand jurors believed Wall had failed to yield in the crash, and that both drivers involved were at fault.
“If we were going 91, would we not get a ticket?” Tatum said. “Justice should be for everyone, not just pick and choose.”
Current South Paulding students and others who have already graduated arrived around noon Friday, many with signs and posters filled with tributes to Kylie and Bella. Five months after their deaths, there are still posters on the walls inside their school, students said. And the crash remains a topic of conversation, according to Kailee Borgia, a 17-year-old senior. She and Kylie were in the same grade.
“I hear her name all the time in the hallways,” Kailee said.
Scott told Channel 2 Action News he prays for the girls’ families every day. But those prayers aren’t enough for those still grieving. Many at the protest believe the trooper should face criminal charges.
“We have to visit Kylie and Isabella at a cemetery, but he can go home to his family,” Tori James, a South Paulding senior, said while holding one of Kylie’s portraits.
“What do we want?” some yelled.
“Justice!” the group replied.
“When do we want it?”
“Now!” the group yelled.
As he wiped away tears, Strickland vowed that he will continue to push for charges against the ex-trooper.
“My granddaughter is dead and her friend is dead. I don’t care about this trooper,” Strickland said. “I loved that girl more than anything I’ve loved in this world.”