Family compensated for wrong-house police shooting in East Atlanta


It’s been almost two years since DeKalb County police officers showed up at the wrong address, burst into a family’s home and opened fire, shooting Chris McKinley in the leg and killing his dog.

Now the county is paying $60,000 to the East Atlanta family to avert a lawsuit. The DeKalb Commission unanimously approved the settlement earlier this month.

Confused police fired seven shots after they were startled by the family dog when they burst through the back door of the home on Aug. 31, 2015, according to a police internal affairs report. Their gunfire left three victims: McKinley, a 9-year-old boxer named Yanna, and one of the officers, who was caught in the crossfire and shot in the leg.

“There is positively no justification for the officers entering the home and shooting Mr. McKinley and the family dog,” according to a demand letter sent by the family’s attorney, Mark Bullman, to the county last year and obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the Georgia Open Records Act. “Nevertheless, Mr. McKinley received what could easily have been a fatal gunshot wound, and Yanna was killed, by the actions of the reckless officers.”

The incident remains under investigation by DeKalb District Attorney Sherry Boston’s office, a spokeswoman said.

Police made a clear mistake as they were checking out a potential burglary, said DeKalb Commissioners Jeff Rader and Kathie Gannon.

“I mean, the guy got shot. We’re just trying to make them whole,” Rader said.

The $60,000 payment compensates the McKinleys for expenses including $35,000 in medical costs, nearly $8,000 in home repairs and more than $9,000 in lost income. The county settled the claim outside of court, avoiding a potential lawsuit.

“They were harmed, and they asked if they could have those things paid for,” Gannon said. “It’s reasonable.”

The internal affairs report, provided by DeKalb police to the AJC upon request, details a series of mistakes and mix-ups that led to the shooting.

The chaos began when the McKinleys’ neighbor called 911 to report a suspicious man loitering and possibly trying to break into a house at the end of Boulderwoods Drive. But when the 911 operator relayed the location to officers, she mistakenly told them to go to the intersection of Boulderwoods Drive and Bouldercrest Road, according to the internal affairs report.

Because the officers didn’t have an exact street address, they misidentified the McKinleys’ brick-and-tan one-story home as the location of the potential burglary.

The McKinleys were watching a movie while their 1-year-old son was sleeping in the next room when the officers entered the unlocked back door of the McKinleys’ house.

The officers later told investigators they announced, “DeKalb County Police Department,” but the McKinleys and neighbors contradict that account. Bullman, the family’s attorney, said in his letter to the county that the officers didn’t announce themselves.

Officer Quhanna Lloyd said in a statement he heard McKinley scream, “Who let you in my house?” just after McKinley opened a door and the dog entered the room. Lloyd said he heard a gunshot behind him, turned around and then joined Officer Travis Jones shooting at the dog.

Jones, in his statement, said he fired on the dog when it ran through the door after hearing Lloyd command, “Do not let the dog out.” The third officer, Timothy Harden, didn’t fire his gun.

Jones, shot in the leg, retreated from the house and lay down. More police and ambulances soon arrived.

“You shot my dog!” McKinley yelled, according to Lloyd’s statement.

McKinley, who is white, didn’t even match the description of the suspect, who the 911 caller said was black, according to the internal affairs report.

“There is no evidence to suggest that the homeowners had done anything wrong or to provoke the shooting,” according to the GBI’s findings after reviewing the case.

After being placed on administrative leave, Lloyd completed firearm re-qualification and returned to full-duty status in November 2015. An internal review board concluded Lloyd wasn’t justified in using force and recommended that Lloyd’s precinct commander take corrective action, but the report doesn’t say whether he was punished.

The internal review board found that officers Jones and Harden didn’t violate policies, rules or regulations.

DeKalb Police Chief James Conroy said officers need to do their best to ensure they’re responding to the correct location when they don’t have an address. He said he couldn’t discuss the specifics of the McKinleys case because it’s still under investigation by county prosecutors.

“We take as many steps as possible. Give us a description, tell us about a vehicle in a driveway — that’s something the 911 operator asks the callers,” Conroy said. “Sometimes, we go with the best information we have in good faith.”

As for the McKinleys, they moved from their home after trying for months to cope with the shooting incident, Bullman wrote in his letter. Bullman declined to comment for this article.

“Mr. McKinley’s prognosis is good, and he has been released from his doctors’ care for his physical injuries. But he will carry the scars for the rest of his life, as a reminder of what DeKalb officers did to him and his family,” Bullman wrote.

MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT.

The AJC's Mark Niesse keeps you updated on the latest happenings in DeKalb County government and politics. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

Never miss a minute of what's happening in DeKalb politics. Subscribe to myAJC.com.

In other DeKalb news:



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

GDOT sets more Perimeter area lane closures
GDOT sets more Perimeter area lane closures

The Georgia Department of Transportation has announced a series of flagging operations on local streets and more lane closures affecting I-285 and Ga. 400 as it gears up for the reconstruction of their interchange in the top-end Perimeter area of North Fulton and DeKalb counties. Flaggers will be out between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Feb. 19-22, for alternate...
Roswell Art Center gets new name
Roswell Art Center gets new name

The Roswell City Council has approved renaming the Art Center on Fouts Road, the Art Center at East Roswell Park. The Roswell Recreation Commission surveyed residents and chose the name that got the highest response in public votes, 48.8 percent, officials said. The present, Art Center on Fouts name got only 12.5 percent, and all other names, 38.7...
Forsyth library branch to close
Forsyth library branch to close

The Sharon Forks branch of the Forsyth County Public Library will be closed from Feb. 19 to March 23 while the second phase of renovation and expansion is completed. Library officials and construction crews will utilize the month-long shutdown to complete such tasks as installation of furniture and computers and shelving thousands of books. A grand...
Locust Grove officer remembered for dedication to family, work
Locust Grove officer remembered for dedication to family, work

He was a mischievous kid with a goofy grin and a sense of humor. And Chase Lee Maddox grew up to become a man dedicated to his family and passionate about his work in law enforcement. Along the way, Maddox never lost his quirky humor and zest for life, his family and fellow officers said Saturday. “People who encountered him experienced Heaven...
Girl, 16, killed when UTV crashes into Georgia lake
Girl, 16, killed when UTV crashes into Georgia lake

A 16-year-old girl was killed when a utility terrain vehicle in which she was riding crashed and went into a lake, authorities said. Kate Jones, 16, of Athens, was submerged when the UTV rolled into the lake on private property, Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry said on Facebook. The incident happened about midnight. A deputy and a firefighter dived...
More Stories