DeKalb, GA -- Police in DeKalb, Georgia, have yet to explain why they broke into the wrong home last August, killed a dog, shot the homeowner, and managed to shoot one of their own officers — so the terrorized couple have now planned to file a lawsuit.
Chris and Leah McKinley and their one-year-old child had settled in to watch a movie in their den when they heard a strange noise. They slowly cracked open the door and saw three men standing in their kitchen.
“As I’m opening it, pow pow pow pow pow,” Chris told WSB-TV in an interview, emphasizing officers started shooting before he’d even fully opened the door. One of the bullets hit him in the leg.
Immediately, the McKinleys assumed the armed men dressed entirely in black to be robbers — and Leah panicked.
“It was five shots and I thought they just murdered him, they’re going to come for me and they’re going to get my baby,” Leah explained. “And that’s all I could think about.”
One officer was also hit by a fellow officer’s gunfire — and though two men had been shot, police ignored the homeowner to tend to the wounded cop.
Officers entered the McKinleys’ home through two closed but unlocked doors, where they encountered and then shot the family dog, a 10-year-old boxer named Yanna.
“Watching her do exactly what a dog is supposed to do,” Chris recalled of seeing Yanna in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor. “All she did was warn us, she didn’t bite them, she just warned us by barking that, ‘Hey someone’s not supposed to be in here and you’re not safe.’”
An emergency caller reported a suspicious person in the cul-de-sac at the far end of the couple’s street, but dispatch did not provide an address, just a vague description that matched the McKinleys’ residence.
Worse, the complainant described a 50-year-old black man — and the McKinleys are both white. Worse still, had the person opening the door actually been the suspicious individual instead of Chris, police still took it upon themselves to shoot before asking any questions.
According to the McKinleys, police incompetence didn’t end with dangerously errant gunfire.
In the police incident report, the wounded officer was listed as the victim and Chris as the offender, the house had the wrong address, and Yanna was described as a pit bull.
“It’s just a slap in the face and a reminder of the incompetence from the very beginning until now still,” Chris said.
“They were trying to spin a story that would protect them, that would cover what they did,” asserted the couple’s attorney, Mark Bullman.
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Leah also told WSB-TV DeKalb investigators repeatedly and falsely tried to claim Chris had a gun.
“We’re good people. I’m a teacher. I’m not doing anything wrong,” she explained. “And because they made a poor choice they’re going to try to blame us.”
Police have investigated the egregiously botched incident, whose findings have yet to be made public — though they apparently never questioned key witnesses.
“I would have thought that if they were going to perform an investigation they would ask the victims,” Chris said, “and nothing, not a word this entire year.”
WSB-TV filed an open records request but has not yet received a response.
Chris had to undertake a year of physical and emotional therapy, and the couple realized they were too traumatized by what had happened to remain in their beloved home — they’ve since moved.
“It carries this hard, heavy, heavy weight on your heart. And it really screws with you,” Chris explained.
Leah echoed her husband, saying, “I can’t turn it off. I see it all the time, I imagine it all the time, if I hear noises if I’m home by myself.”
Police have never fully explained their actions nor apologized to the couple for what amounted to a violent takeover of their property.
Out of options, the McKinleys now plan to sue to “at least force them into accountability if they’re not willing to admit they did anything wrong,” as Leah put it.
According to WSB-TV:
“DeKalb Police Chief James Conroy said his heart goes out to the McKinley family and confirmed that his department did do a review of the incident. He said he could not comment on the facts of the case because of potential litigation, but vowed to make the requested records available as quickly as possible. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation finished its review of the case last September, but refused to provide a copy, as the case is still pending in the DeKalb District Attorney’s Office.”
Thus far, police have only admitted to being at the wrong address and that the shooting of the officer violated departmental policy, as officers are required to not jeopardize their own safety.
“Are we perfect? Absolutely not,” Conroy said at the time. “But when we find we made 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.”
Conroy, of course, failed to mention that mistake left an innocent family physically harmed, emotionally distressed, and their beloved pet dead.
Officers were perhaps quite fortunate the McKinleys didn’t respond to the armed intrusion with gunfire — though police claim they announced themselves as law enforcement, the couple has never verified hearing them say anything.