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DA waiting for ballistics in controversial shooting

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

A grand jury could be getting a look at the investigation into a shooting between former friends, soon, but the district attorney's office is still waiting for a final report.

Seven months after 19-year-old Marques McGhee was shot eight times and killed in the garage of a Camp Road house, the district attorney's office is waiting for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's firearms analysis before bringing the case to a grand jury for review.

"We haven't gotten the ballistics back," said Todd Naugle, senior assistant district attorney. "It depends on what the ballistics say. I have an expectation of what they might say, but I don't know what they'll say. If it's different than what I might think, then we'll have to look at that."

McGhee was shot in the head, legs, chest and back on Feb. 20, according to the GBI autopsy, in what Clayton County police say was a home invasion and a justified homicide, and what his family says was a set-up, murder and cover-up.

The shooter was a 16-year-old resident of the home, who was on Spring break, at the time, and told police he was eating cereal when he heard the sound of breaking glass. According to the juvenile, who is not being named in the Clayton News Daily because of his age, he got his father's gun, found a masked man, wearing black, standing in the garage. He said he fired at the man until the gun was empty.

He told police he didn't know the masked man was McGhee - an older teen he had looked up to, played basketball with and had been arrested with - until police showed him McGhee's face.

Clayton County Detectives, including Detective Scott Eskew, who has 30 years experience, believed the 16-year-old's story, found it to be consistent with the evidence at the scene, and said the killing was justified.

McGhee's family and friends, however, protested the investigation and called the police sloppy and unprofessional. They argued with the police officers at the scene, on Feb. 20. Backed and organized by the county's chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, they complained about the police work at county commission meetings, and later protested against the police in a "Rally for Justice."

According to NAACP Chapter President Dexter Matthews, Charlie McGhee, Jr., and the teen's mother, Tabitha Patrice Eberhart, the 19-year-old was invited to the home, because he was owed something.

McGhee was on the phone with the 16-year-old while he was walking up to the house, they have said, and the younger boy made the scene look like a break-in.

McGhee's family members have said McGhee wasn't killed in self defense, but was "shot down like a dog," and have repeatedly said it wasn't a shooting, but "an execution," citing the location of the bullet wounds.

After the police finished their investigation, which was extended to three months at the request of the county commission chairman, a teen came forward and said he had been in the car with McGhee when they drove to the Camp Road home.

The district attorney's office has interviewed the teen, who hasn't been named, has looked at the teen's phone records, and are now waiting for the firearms report from the GBI. Naugle has said the office will present the case to a grand jury, explain what the law says, and let the jurors decide if the younger teen should be prosecuted, or if the killing was justifiable.

The ballistics could go a long way in proving the shooting was a murder, or that it was self defense.

The GBI has a backlog of firearms analysis cases, receiving, on average, 50 more cases than it can handle each month.

Officials in the district attorney's office could not say when they expected to get the ballistics report, and then, present the case to a grand jury.