Driver who hit girl in DeKalb says he was carjacked

The man behind the wheel of a car that flew into a DeKalb County yard Friday says he was the victim of an armed carjacking and blacked out before the crash, which critically injured a young girl playing outside.

Gabriel Jabri Fordham, 28, was denied bond at a hearing Wednesday in connection with the Friday evening crash in the Redan area.

Fordham’s lawyer told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Fordham was the driver captured in a home security video speeding past a stop sign and striking the girl as she tried to run out of the way. The disturbing video went viral and was picked up by media around the nation, as was the search for the two men in the car in the following days. But Fordham’s attorney said the crash happened after a struggle inside the car, and that Fordham was hit with the butt of a gun.

“During the course of the tussle, my client ended up with a black eye,” said attorney Ryan Williams of Decatur. “My client literally passed out. … He was unconscious; his foot may have been on the gas.”

Police have not confirmed whether a carjacking took placeand said at a press conference Wednesday that their investigation into the crash is still ongoing.

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“We still have questions ourselves,” Detective Lorentz Armstrong said.

Fordham turned himself in to DeKalb authorities Tuesday, exactly one year after walking out of prison following a six-year sentence for assault charges. Fordham, a convicted felon from Lithonia, will remain held at the DeKalb County jail. In denying to give him a bond, Judge Curtis Miller cited the fact that Fordham got out of prison a year ago and is on probation.

The passenger, who Williams said was the carjacker, is shown in the footage immediately running from the car moments after the crash on Cherokee Valley Drive. Fordham is seen getting out of the car and speaking to others at the scene before disappearing out of the frame. His attorney said he was threatened by someone after the crash and walked away, leaving the wrecked car lodged in the house.

The wreck seriously injured LaDerihanna Holmes, who was in critical condition but is now stable and beginning her recovery. Holmes’ friend, 11-year-old Alayshia Phillips, suffered a foot injury.

Williams said Fordham is sorry for what happened but did not immediately realize he had struck the girl. He left the yard about three minutes after the crash because he felt threatened by the girl’s family members, his attorney said.

In the surveillance video, a man walks outside of the home minutes after the crash holding a handgun in his left hand. Moments later, Fordham is seen walking away.

L. Chris Stewart, the lawyer for Holmes’ family, said LaDerihanna’s older brother brought out the gun due to the emergency of the situation but never confronted or threatened Fordham.

“He didn't point it at anyone,” Stewart said in an interview. “He didn't know who the driver was.”

Stewart said he does not know if Fordham was carjacked, but said he “had multiple days to come forward and tell the police he was carjacked. I don’t know why he didn't.”

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Police are still investigating the situation outside the home and have not decided if they will press charges against the older brother.

In a statement earlier in the day, Stewart said the family was “pleased” that Fordham was arrested.

“The family is hopeful that police will also find the passenger in that vehicle soon,” the statement said.

Armstrong said detectives are pursuing leads and working to identify the passenger.

“We would like to know who that gentleman is,” he said.

Fordham did not know the man before he was allegedly attacked, his attorney said. His girlfriend owns the car involved in the wreck, according to a police report. On Friday, the same day of the crash, investigators contacted the woman, who told them Fordham was driving her car that day.

After walking away, Fordham did not immediately report the alleged carjacking and waited four days to turn himself in because he is out on probation, Williams said.

“(The police) knew exactly who he was; they knew how to get in contact with him,” the attorney said.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Fordham was charged with failure to maintain his lane, failure to stop at a stop sign, reckless driving, hit and run, and serious injury by vehicle. The first four charges are misdemeanors, while the last is a felony. He is due back in court April 15.

According to court records, Fordham was previously convicted on another felony. Fordham was released from Telfair State Prison on April 2, 2018 after serving about six years on aggravated assault and aggravated battery charges, according to Georgia Department of Corrections records.

Fordham pleaded guilty after an indictment alleged that he shot a man in the leg with a rifle on Jan. 8, 2012, according to DeKalb court records. The AJC reported that Fordham, 21 at the time, was accused of shattering the victim's leg, which later had to be amputated. The shooting caused a three-hour standoff on Scarborough Lane in Lithonia after Fordham hid in the attic of a home, authorities said.

He also pleaded guilty to two forgery charges stemming from offenses in 2009.