Everyone agrees that a 17-year-old Georgia boy held something in his hand when police shot him to death on his doorstep: The officers say it was a gun; an attorney for the boy’s family says it was a Nintendo Wii remote control. And a neighbor speculates that it might have been a BB gun.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into Friday’s shooting, which took place when two officers arrived to serve two arrest warrants for probation violations on someone else in the household. At 7:30 p.m., the officers knocked on a door in a mobile home community in Euharlee, a city of 4,000 in northern Georgia.
The Euharlee Police Department said in a statement this week that Christopher Wayne Roupe “opened the door with a handgun pointed [at] the officer” and that the officer fired once, then immediately called for an ambulance.
The department did not identify the officer, but later said that the officer who fired was a woman. The other officer was a man.
Cole Law, an attorney for the family, has said that Roupe was merely holding a Wii remote, used for playing video games. In an email to the Los Angeles Times, Law said more information, including a photo of the remote, would be released soon.
Caron Yates, a neighbor and rental manager for the mobile home community, told The Times that Roupe probably was holding an arms-length BB gun rifle. She did not see the incident, but said what transpired was a misunderstanding on both sides of the door.
“No one was at fault,” she said. “Obviously, Christopher didn’t know police were the ones knocking. He had been playing around with a friend nearby 30 minutes earlier, and Christopher must’ve thought it was his friend, so he opened with a gun, joking around to scare him.”
Yates said that she also knew the officer who shot Roupe, and that they were both good people.
“Christopher was the adult in the family,” Yates said. His siblings, 15 and 13, were home when he was shot, she said.
Euharlee police asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into whether use of force was justified, the agencies said.
Police Chief Terry Harget declined to comment to The Times, beyond saying that he trusts the bureau to conduct an unbiased investigation. Harget said the arrest warrants were served later Friday night, but did not say on whom.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is expected to release more information on Thursday.
“As with all use-of-force investigations, the GBI is conducting a very thorough investigation,” spokeswoman Sherry Lang said in a statement. “When the investigation is completed, it will be turned over to the district attorney's office.”
Mickey Thacker, the chief assistant district attorney in Bartow County, said his office had been advised of the shooting death.
The case has sparked hundreds of comments on a local Facebook page, including allegations about which of the department’s two female officers had shot Roupe. Harget told a local newspaper that the female officer had been with the department for one year, but had worked in law enforcement for a decade altogether.
A Facebook page in Roupe's honor calls him "Bubba" and says his funeral is scheduled for Friday.
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