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Report Says Georgia Cops Fire Eight Shots at Driver

BRUNSWICK, Ga. --

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation found that a woman being pursued by police in June 2010 used her car as a weapon before two veteran Glynn County officers opened fire, killing her.

According to the 540-page report into the fatal police-involved shooting, Caroline McGehee Small, 35, had used her car to ram officer's cruisers.

A Glynn County grand jury cleared Sgt. Corey Sasser and Officer Todd Simpson of criminal wrongdoing, and both also were cleared by an internal Glynn County police investigation, but Police Chief Matt Doering asked the GBI to investigate the shooting -- a common practice in officer-involved shootings in Georgia.

The incident began when police were called to a report of a woman using drugs in her car in the parking lot of Embassy Suites. Glynn County officers said she took off when they approached and they, joined by the Georgia State Patrol, pursued Small's vehicle for about 4 miles into a nearby residential area. Officers said the woman drove through yards, nearly hitting people.

Police deployed stop sticks on the fleeing car, flattening both the front tires, then a GSP cruiser ran her into a pole and a Glynn County police cruiser blocked her in.

They said the woman would not get out and was rocking her car back and forth, trying to get free.

"She came forward at us and that's when we shot," Simpson told the GBI.

Two Glynn County officers fired a total of eight rounds into the car, one hitting Small in the face. She was taken to a hospital, where she died about a week later.

Officers said that had Small survived, she would have been charged with aggravated assault with a motor vehicle.

Dashboard-camera video of the chase and shooting was released after the investigation was complete. Sasser and Simpson were side-by-side off camera, so none of the videos show either pulling the trigger, but did record the officers' comments.

GBI officials declined comment about the findings, which offer no conclusions nor interpretation of the evidence.

Doering said Monday that his officers only had a split-second to react, and he feels they acted appropriately because they genuinely feared for their lives.

"They were convinced, had no doubt she was going to run them over," Doering said. "Of course, we all wish it didn't have to happen."

Small's family, however, says that the video and the evidence show the officers were negligent and shouldn't have fired at Small.

A wrongful death lawsuit may be filed by two Brunswick lawyers on behalf of Small's daughters -- ages 5 and 12 -- and her estate.

Sasser shot a convicted drug dealer five years ago when the man drove at him with his car. The man survived and the shooting was found justifiable. Simpson had never fired his gun in the line of duty until last year.

Both officers remain on the force for the Glynn County Police Department.

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