The Justice for Caroline Small group that sought a new grand jury to review the Brunswick mother’s 2010 brutal police shooting death announced this week its plan to scale back efforts to reopen the case.
The group’s decision comes after a 20-month campaign failed to persuade Gov. Nathan Deal, Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson and other officials in Georgia to assign a special prosecutor to bring the case before a new grand jury.
In a letter dated Monday to supporters, the group — which formed out of a close-knit circle of church friends in Tallahassee where Small grew up — said it was out of options for now and would be scaling back its efforts.
“It’s difficult. It’s hurtful,” said Karen McGehee, Small’s mother. “It’s very disappointing and it brings up lots of hurt because this was my child that was shot….It’s not like we are saying we give up, but there aren’t any doors open right now,””
The group formed in the summer of 2015 following an investigation into Small’s death by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News that exposed how police manufactured evidence and DA Johnson tilted the grand jury process in 2011 to favor the officers.
The officers, who fired eight bullets into the windshield of Small’s vehicle, were caught on dash-cam video that raised significant doubts about the need to pull the trigger in a police shooting that a GBI supervisor called the worst he’d ever investigated.
Both officers were eventually cleared by the grand jury process, but the news investigation revealed a host of problems with the actions of the police and DA Johnson following the shooting.
Small’s mother and her friends, who knew each other for decades through church, formed their group after reading the AJC/Channel 2 reports. But their efforts, including meetings with Johnson and local officials in Brunswick, as well as multiple appeals to Gov. Deal failed to move officials to act.
In January, McGehee and others had a meeting with a new Glynn County Commissioner Peter Murphy, but they failed to convince him to support a motion to ask Gov. Deal to appoint a special prosecutor.
The group’s stalled efforts underscore the almost absolute authority local district attorneys carry in their districts. The group said they had run out of legal options to pursue justice.
“After much prayerful consideration, Karen has decided that it is time to scale back our Justice for Caroline activities,” according to a letter by one of the group’s leaders, Bob Apgar, who wrote supporters on Monday. “We will be ready to become active again if God opens other doors for us.”
One of the Glynn County officers involved in the shooting, Sgt. Robert C. Sasser, received a promotion in January 2016 to the rank of lieutenant, according to state records. The other, Michael Todd Simpson, died in March 2016 after a bout with brain cancer.