The driver in a hit-and-run crash that left a 9-year-old girl seriously injured in suburban Atlanta has turned himself in to police, Atlanta station WSB-TV reported.
Gabriel Fordham, 28, arrived to the Dekalb County Sheriff’s Office in handcuffs on Tuesday but his attorney insists there’s more to the story.
Little LaDerihanna Holmes was playing in the front yard of her Lithonia home Friday when Fordham’s black Ford sedan ran a stop sign and careened across the lawn before slamming into her house. The young girl was left with a fractured skull, a broken pelvic bone and other serious internal injuries.
Fordham’s attorney, Ryan Williams, said his client is “sympathetic” and claims the crash happened as the driver was fighting off an alleged carjacker in his car.
“Someone jumped in his vehicle with a pistol, put the gun to his face, made him drive, and the whole time my client was driving, he was kind of directing the path,” Williams explained to WSB-TV.
“[Fordham] is apologetic and he wants to help this family get closure to this issue,” he added.
Video captured by the home’s security cameras showed the moment the out-of-control car blew through a stop sign at a nearby intersection and jumped the curb before careening into the Holmes’ Dekalb County residence. In the clip, LaDerihanna, 9, is seen playing with a friend moments before the crash.
Holmes’ friend, 11-year-old, Alaysia Phillips, managed to dodge the oncoming car, but LaDerihanna wasn’t so lucky and was hit when it plowed into her family’s home. Phillips was also injured in the crash and recalled the moment she realized she was hurt.
“The only reason I woke up is because I heard screaming,” she told the station. “My foot got stuck between the car and the house.”
The little girl is now using crutches because her foot was left badly bruised by the accident.
After the crash, footage from the Holmes’ surveillance video showed one person slip out the vehicle’s passenger’s side and stagger from the scene as relatives rushed to LaDerihnna’s aid. A second person was also spotted leaving the scene, the Holmes family said.
According to Williams, the unidentified person in the white pants seen running away is the passenger and the robber who attacked Fordham.
“My client tried to take the gun from him, the guy hits him in the face, my client blacks out, and that is why you see the full-fledge force of them going through a stop sign,” the attorney said.
Clips from the incident showed Fordham briefly remain on the scene after escaping the wreckage, but his attorneys claim threats from Holmes’ relatives prompted him to flee.
“With emotions rising, he had no opportunity to stay there, without possibly being harmed,” Williams added.
Fordham’s girlfriend, who owns the car, contacted police after learning of the crash and said she and Fordham have been negotiating a surrender ever since, according to Williams. He insists his client hasn’t been trying to “hide in the shadows.”
Wakena Timms, Phillips’ aunt, believes otherwise and said she still doesn’t understand why the driver and his passenger left the scene of the crash.
“The gentleman, I just want to know, what if that had been your little cousin? How would you feel?” Timms told WSB-TV. “Would you want someone to leave the scene and leave them like that? Like, How could you run over two little girls and leave … You don’t try to help or nothing?”
Authorities are expected to charge Fordham with hit-and-run, failure to maintain lane, stop sign violation, serious injury by vehicle and reckless driving.
Watch more in the video below.