'I Hit Her In The Face'
Sasser told GBI agents that he did check Small for a pulse, but she didn't have one. None of the police videos show him doing so.
Instead, he and Simpson talked about who shot first and where the bullets hit Small, according to the videos.
"I hit her right in the face ... Right on the bridge of the nose," Sasser said.
"I think I fired twice," Simpson replied.
"I shot first. You shot, blam, blam," Sasser told Simpson.
Sasser, who fired six bullets, told the GBI that his first shot hit Small and she "jerked back." Simpson told the GBI that "she came forward at us and that's when we shot."
Mitchell McDaniel, a former Glynn County firefighter, witnessed the shooting from about 25 yards away on a riding lawn mower in a yard across the street.
"The car was immobile. ... There was no way the car was going to run over the police officers," McDaniel told GBI agents.
McDaniel said he knew Simpson and talked mostly to him after the shooting. Simpson told him that he'd shot Small in the head. McDaniel asked Simpson whether he should go check on Small.
"He said, 'No, she's dead. I shot her in the head. Her head exploded,' " McDaniel told the GBI.
Small wasn't dead, but her gunshot wounds were far more serious than Doering told reporters immediately after the shooting.
Doering said a bullet struck her in the cheek but that Small was taken to a Savannah hospital where she was in stable condition and expected to fully recover.
Small died one week later without regaining consciousness when her family allowed doctors to remove her from life support.
Acknowledging he was wrong then, Doering said that was the initial information he had been given.
Either of the two police bullets, individually or collectively, could have been lethal, autopsy results showed.
It's unknown which officer or whether both fired the fatal shots. Because the bullets fragmented upon impact, GBI ballistics experts couldn't match them to either Sasser's or Simpson's department-issued Glock semi-automatic handgun.
It wasn't the first time Sasser had shot a suspect in the line of duty.
On Jan. 26, 2005, Sasser shot a convicted drug dealer, whom an internal investigation showed was trying to run down Sasser. Before jumping out of the way, Sasser, who joined the department in 2001, fired three bullets into the man's car -- one through the front windshield and two through the open driver's window. Sasser wounded the man in the upper right shoulder and forearm. The man later was sentenced to 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault on a peace officer.
In his 15 years on the force, Simpson had never before fired his gun in the line of duty.
Grand Jury's Decision
In a 12-6 decision, a Glynn County grand jury cleared Sasser and Simpson of criminal wrongdoing in Small's death.
The panel heard more than six hours of evidence ranging from the police car videos to testimony from Sasser, Simpson and two other law enforcement officers present when the shooting occurred. Its Aug. 17 special presentment stated that Sasser and Simpson "acted lawfully and were justified in their conduct."
District Attorney Jackie Johnson had prepared a potential indictment charging Sasser and Simpson with felony murder, voluntary manslaughter, two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of violation of their oath of office in Small's death. A copy of the indictment is in the GBI case file. Johnson declined comment about whether the grand jury considered the indictment.
Unless new evidence surfaces, Johnson said she won't present the case to a new grand jury, which the law allows in certain circumstances.
By the time the grand jury convened, Sasser and Simpson already had been cleared by a Glynn County police internal investigation.
Georgia law allows the family to ask for a special prosecutor, an option Williams, the attorney preparing the lawsuit on behalf of Small's daughters, said has not been ruled out.
Teresa Stepzinski: (912) 264-0405