The family of an Atlanta-area 12-year-old killed during a high-speed chase is calling for a special prosecutor and federal investigation into a Georgia State Patrol trooper’s actions.
During a Jan. 10 news conference, the parents of Le’Den Boykins stood on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol building. They expressed sorrow and frustration patrol officers didn’t do more to save the lives of the children inside the car the night of the incident.
“They decided to terminate somebody’s life for a speeding ticket,” Le’Den’s father, Anthony Boykins, said.
The incident occurred during the early morning hours of Sept. 10, 2021. Charlie Moore, 37, was driving his Kia Sorento with his son and Le’Den Boykins inside. Boykins, who his grandmother was watching at his Paulding County home while his parents were in Michigan at a funeral, had been given permission to go out with his 14-year-old neighbor and Moore, the teen’s father, to earn some money cleaning parking lots on the night of the crash, local station WXIA reported.
Georgia State Patrol told NBC Moore “was initially pulled over shortly after 1 a.m. by a trooper for speeding.”
Dashcam video shows the traffic stop where Georgia State Patrol Officer David Petersen approached the driver’s side window of Moore’s vehicle. Petersen claimed Moore tried to evade him. He asked Moore for his driver’s license, which Moore refused to provide, prompting Petersen to ask him to step out of the vehicle.
Several minutes into the traffic stop, two Paulding County Sheriff’s deputies arrived. Moore asked for a supervisor and questioned what crime he had committed. At this point, one deputy smashed the driver’s side window, and Moore reacted by speeding away.
A high-speed chase lasted roughly eight minutes until Petersen hit the back left bumper of Moore’s Kia Sorento performing the PIT maneuver. Moore and the children inside flipped over into a roadside ditch. Petersen is heard saying, “PIT successful, PIT successful,” as the car goes into the embankment.
The PIT maneuver is a method used by police to end pursuits. The method occurs when a police vehicle hits the vehicle it is pursuing near its back left or right tire. The vehicle is struck and then spun around, allowing police to stop the chase.
The family claims the troopers should have acted differently because there were children inside Moore’s vehicle.
“They could put a roadblock up and protect those kids. They couldn’t figure out any other way than to flip that car over?” Anthony Boykins asked.
While Georgia’s Department of Public Safety policy does not explicitly prohibit the PIT maneuver because children are in the car, it requires officers to consider children’s safety.
The Paulding County Sheriff’s Office on scene told WANF, “it was 1 a.m., and it was dark, and the troopers were having trouble seeing who was in the vehicle.”
“They killed my son, and the first thing they did was lie to me. I asked them specifically, did you know there were children in the car, and they gave a very clear answer, no, we did not know children were in the car,” Anthony Boykins said.
Radio traffic shared by Boykins’ attorney, Lee Merritt, indicates officers on the scene knew children were in the vehicle.
A dispatcher can be heard on police radio traffic saying, “there are children in the car.” An unidentified officer responds, saying, “There are kids in the car. If I can get up there and pass them, and we’ll try again.”
“There’s the vehicle coming. They better stop before they get put in a ditch,” an unidentified trooper said.
Merritt asked for the Paulding County prosecutor to recuse himself and allow a special prosecutor to come in and take over the case last summer.
Atlanta NAACP President Gerald Griggs called for Georgia’s attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor again at the news conference. He also called for the Department of Justice to investigate the case.
“It’s been almost 500 days, and there’s still been no action. We’re demanding swift and accountable justice in this case. Le’Den was a victim,” Griggs said.
“We want justice for our son,” Anthony Boykins said.
Petersen was placed on administrative leave during an investigation by the GBI, then returned to work early last year, WXIA reports.
The Georgia State Patrol told Atlanta Black Star, “We cannot comment due to the notice of potential litigation.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said its only role in the case was to conduct the autopsy, and Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s office said it was unable to comment.
Moore was arrested and booked into the Paulding County jail. He faces a slew of charges which include first-degree vehicular homicide, murder during the commission of a felony, reckless driving, endangering a child while DUI of alcohol or drugs and fleeing to elude. He still awaits trial.