published Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Officer shot 15-year-old once in back


by Jacqueline Koch
Audio clip

East Lake Shooting

PDF: CHA shooting

Minutes before Alonzo O'Kelley Jr. was fatally shot by a Chattanooga Housing Authority officer Wednesday, video surveillance captured the 15-year-old shooting at a black Dodge Durango on Fourth Avenue before running to East Lake Courts.

The Chattanooga Police Department, which is investigating the incident, on Monday released CHA surveillance footage of the gunfire exchange and the arrival of CHA police officer Lt. Erik Reeves on the scene, as well as audio of radio traffic after Lt. Reeves shot Mr. O'Kelley.

"Shots fired!" Lt. Reeves can be heard yelling. "Get on the ground ... One down! One down!"

A Hamilton County Medical Examiner's report also released Monday showed Mr. O'Kelley was shot once in the back, just to the right of his left shoulder blade, and was dead on arrival at Erlanger hospital. The report lists the manner of death as a homicide.

The report also showed Mr. O'Kelley had multiple abrasions to his face, including above his left eye brow, under his left eye, under his left nostril and in the center of his chin and nose.

The tapes are consistent with Lt. Reeves' statements involving the incident, said Chattanooga Police Department spokeswoman Sgt. Jerri Weary.

Lt. Reeves came upon Mr. O'Kelley and another juvenile in the 2500 block of Fourth Avenue shortly after the gunfight, Sgt. Weary said.

The officer ordered both young men to the ground, and one complied, Sgt. Weary said. Mr. O'Kelley began to run in an opposite direction, and as he did so he raised the gun toward Lt. Reeves from a bladed position, the sergeant said.

A bladed position is one in which the shooter extends his arm perpendicular to his body and faces his target so that only his side is showing.

At that time, Lt. Reeves shot Mr. O'Kelley, Sgt. Weary said.

CHA Police Chief Felix Vess said in an e-mailed statement Monday that the medical examiner's report was consistent with Lt. Reeves' initial statements.

"Of course the investigation is still under way, and no final conclusions will be made until all of the information has been collected and reviewed," Chief Vess said. "As soon as we have the completed autopsy and the investigation is final, the findings will be released. At this point, there is nothing to indicate that there will be any conclusion that is different from what was reported by Lt. Reeves the night of the incident."

Chattanooga police also said the autopsy report is consistent with Lt. Reeves' statement.

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Angela Lewis Colia Preston talks on Thursday about what he witnessed Wednesday when a Chattanooga Housing Authority police officer shot shot and killed 15-year-old Alonzo O’Kelley Jr. at East Lake Courts.

Some witnesses told police a story consistent with that of Lt. Reeves,' Chattanooga police said. Others told reporters last week that Mr. O'Kelley never raised his gun and instead dropped it.

"That's cold-blooded murder," Colia Preston, who witnessed the incident and gave statements to Chattanooga police, said last week. "He shot that dude down like a dog. That's not justifiable."

Another witness said she saw the officer step on Mr. O'Kelley's back as the young man asked for help.

"He was stepping on him after he shot him," Kimberly Hill said. "He was yelling at him to shut up."

Chattanooga police are continuing their investigation. The other juvenile involved in the gun fight was taken into custody, police said. Lt. Reeves was given time off during the investigation, Chief Vess previously said.

Last week, police said they found shell casings from the gunfire and what was believed to be Mr. O'Kelley's gun.

Carrying a gun in East Lake Courts is not only commonplace -- it's necessary for survival, residents say.

So it wasn't unusual that Mr. O'Kelley was holding a gun when Lt. Reeves came upon him, said a friend of Mr. O'Kelley's and an East Lake Court resident, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution.

"Out here in the streets, you've got to have a gun," the man said. "If you're walking in the streets after 10 p.m., you need a gun to protect yourself, protect your family. It's like the wild, wild west out here."

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hpope said...

The death of a fifteen year old is tragic no matter what the circumstances.

While the community awaits the results of the investigation by the Chattanooga Police Department and possibly the TBI, CHA should fully explain why they feel the need to have their own small police force. Why does CHA employ a small force with limited jurisdiction to patrol their properties? Based on the released videos, this incident seems to start on a city street and sidewalk and migrate onto CHA property, would the city residents (inclusive of CHA’s residents) not be better served with a single policing authority patrolling inside and outside the CHA properties?

July 7, 2009 at 7:55 a.m.
Lightnup said...

There is nothing in this article that justifies the blatant sensationalism and anger-baiting of the headline. How about "Officer shoots 15-year-old to avoid being shot himself."

July 7, 2009 at 8:19 a.m.
greenerob said...

He said the "Wild, Wild West." Have these wanna bees ever been to the real streets like in Chicago or Detroit?

July 7, 2009 at 9:03 a.m.
Snooksie said...

Its another gang banger off the streets.

July 7, 2009 at 9:24 a.m.
ladyvolz said...

Cold blooded murder, give me a break. Now if Mr. O'Kelley had a permit to carry a gun, and had his gun out because his life had been threatened, thoughts might change.

But so far it sounds like Mr. O'Kelley is one of the reasons residents in that area are fearful after dark and see the "need" to carry a gun.

July 7, 2009 at 10:35 a.m.
queeni said...

It’s always a shame for a parent to have to bury a child. My questions are 1) What is a 15 year old doing out about walking around at sunset? 2) What was this JUVINILE doing with a gun period? 3) Why did he run when the officer told him to freeze? It’s quite possible he couldn't hear the officer if his ears were ringing from, I don’t know, shots just haven been fired? The young man anyway you look at it was up to no good and the end results were produced by his actions alone.

July 7, 2009 at 12:28 p.m.
m554g said...

I have to agree with some of the previous posts. I am the mother of a 15 year old black male whom I love dearly, so much in fact that I have taught him the consequences of having a gun and being envolved in anything remotely resembling gang activity. I have taught him that if you live by the sword it is very likely that you will die by the sword. Now, I do understand that some of our youth are forced to grow up in environments that are much more harsh than others but a 15 year old has no business carrying a gun, much less shooting off a gun and jeopardizing the safety of all sorts of innocent bystanders or even those thought to be safe in their homes. I have every sympathy for the family and friends of the child killed but I feel the officer was doing his duty which is protect and serve all while risking his own life. Lastly, what I think this city needs to realize is that although a lot of the prevention for these sorts of behaviors start at home, not all of the parents themselves are equipped to teach there children the right values so we desparately need more outreach programs for the youth before they become babies having babies and gang members.

July 7, 2009 at 1:14 p.m.
una61 said...

Maybe our enlightened legislators should amend the "Guns" bill to allow guns in housing projects so that the residents can defend themselves.

July 7, 2009 at 2:56 p.m.
Sailorman said...

una61 - that's the dumbest statement I've seen all day. Go grind your ax somewhere else.

July 7, 2009 at 6:09 p.m.
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