Returning home from her Monday evening walk, Tama Colson rounded the corner into her subdivision and saw DeKalb County police cars.
Then she heard the gunshots — and her neighbors’ anguish.
“I hear Leah screaming, I see Chris walking out, ‘They just shot me, they just shot me, and they killed my dog’,” Colson said Tuesday. “So I got him to lay down, took my shirt off and rendered first aid. And Chris just kept saying, ‘Why did they shoot me? Why did they shoot my dog?’ ”
Those are the key questions in the fourth controversial police shooting in DeKalb County in less than two years — an incident in which, according to authorities, officers responding to a burglary call went to the wrong home, shot the unarmed homeowner, killed his dog and wounded one of their own.
Now the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is sifting through information to get answers in this case as DeKalb officials and others in law enforcement cite the current challenges officers face.
“Are we perfect?” DeKalb director of public safety Cedric Alexander said. “Absolutely not. But when we find a mistake, we own it. We own the fact that we were at the wrong house. We didn’t hide it. We didn’t mismanage it. We were at the wrong location based on information that was given to us.”
Shortly after 7:30 p.m. Monday, three DeKalb County police officers were dispatched to a burglary call on Boulderwoods Drive, just off Bouldercrest Road, about a mile south of I-20. Derek Perez, the man who made the 911 call, wrote on Facebook that he’d told police about a possible burglar outside of “the farthest house at the end of the street.”
The officers, however, stopped at Chris and Leah McKinley’s home — the second house on the street — because it matched the “physical description” given, according to a release from the GBI.
The officers went to the rear of the home, onto the screened-in porch and through a “reportedly unlocked rear door,” the GBI said.
According to neighbors, that’s when Chris McKinley — who’d been watching a movie called “Serendipity” with his wife and 1-year-old — walked into the room with his dog. Authorities said two of the officers opened fire after they “encountered a dog.”
“He says, ‘I opened the door to see what the dogs were barking at, and I see black uniforms and I hear pop-pop-pop-pop’,” Colson said, relaying McKinley’s words.
McKinley, 36, was shot in the leg, and his dog, a female boxer, was killed. One of the officers — identified Tuesday afternoon as Travis Jones — was shot in the hip by a colleague, the GBI said.
McKinley was released from Atlanta Medical Center early Tuesday morning, and was later seen outside his home on crutches. He declined to speak with reporters, and a sign posted on his front door asked media members to “please leave us alone.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Jones was in “serious but stable condition” at Grady Memorial Hospital, officials said. He and the other two officers involved in the incident — Quhanna Lloyd and Timothy Harden — have been placed on paid administrative leave, DeKalb officials said.
Jones has been with DeKalb police since November, the GBI said. Lloyd and Harden have worked for the department since 2007 and 2010, respectively.
It was not immediately clear which officers fired shots Monday.
Interim DeKalb police Chief James Conroy said the incident has prompted the county to review its when-to-shoot training protocol — but he also said police have difficulties when people call 911 from cellphones but aren’t able to provide an accurate address.
“Without getting into the specifics of this case, that’s one of the challenges when people call 911, we often don’t know where they are,” Conroy said. “We want officers to go out and investigate crimes like this rather than react. We want to go out and actually apprehend criminals and help people.”
Interim DeKalb CEO Lee May said it’s “always concerning when there’s a police-involved shooting,” and called the GBI’s review of the incident appropriate.
Alexander, meanwhile, asked the public to let the investigation into Monday’s shooting run its course.
“None of us should be speculating or assuming anything at this point,” he said. “There needs to be an investigation. There was a police officer who was severely injured and had a great deal of blood lost. We’re going to continue to pray for the officer and the homeowner.”
The incident on Boulderwoods Drive is the fourth controversial police shooting in DeKalb in just under two years.
On Sept. 2, 2013, a DeKalb officer mistakenly shot and wounded a 16-year-old Southwest DeKalb High School student he believed to be a burglary suspect.
The K-9 officer reportedly had an “unintentional misfire” after his dog tracked the teen — who reportedly fled the area of a recent home invasion because he thought he was in trouble for skipping school — to a nearby shed.
The teen was shot in the arm, but survived.
On Dec. 29, 2014, another DeKalb officer, Joseph Pitts, fatally shot 44-year-old Kevin Davis after killing his dog.
Davis, who had called 911 for help, had a gun when he was killed, but was not pointing it at Pitts, authorities have said. He was reportedly demanding to know why the officer had killed his dog.
On March 9, DeKalb police Officer Robert Olsen shot and killed 27-year-old Anthony Hill, an Air Force veteran who was unarmed and naked outside his Chamblee apartment complex. Police have said Hill ran at Olsen and ignored warnings to stop during an apparent mental breakdown.
Alexander defended officers in DeKalb and throughout the country, saying they “have a tough job.”
“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,” he said Tuesday. “A lot of the criticisms and mockeries they’ve sustained across the country and even locally is just unfair.”
— Staff photographer Ben Gray and staff writers Mike Morris and Alexis Stevens contributed to this article.
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