Erica Browning had a bad feeling about her teenage son walking to Mundy's Mill High School last week, and wanted to drive him. But Maurice Freeman, 16, reassured her that he would be fine.
"He told me that nothing was going to happen to him," said Browning. "He told me, 'Mom, I've been walking to school since I was 8 or 9 years old.'"
Her mother's intuition was on target. Freeman was struck as he walked along Ga. 54 Tuesday morning by a driver who fled the scene. Clayton County Police Officer John Schneller said Monday that investigators are following leads, but have not made an arrest.
After Freeman was hit, other drivers maneuvered around him without stopping.
"I was just dumbfounded that a person could see another person on the ground, and not do anything to help," said Browning. "People are just too busy to love."
Before Browning realized the person who hit her son left the scene, she was prepared to face and forgive the driver.
"I had told myself that I was not mad, it's a mistake, they didn't mean to do it," she said. "But a hit-and-run? It's inhumane and heartless. I can't imagine doing that to someone."
Freeman, who suffered a broken pelvis, fractured tailbone, cracked skull, lacerated kidney and blood around his brain, also took the news with great difficulty.
"He was upset that they just left him out there to die," said Browning.
Freeman was rescued when Callaway Elementary School Principal Marcus Fuller stopped and used his car to block traffic. "We are so grateful to the principal," said Browning. "He saved his life. He told us that he doesn't usually go that way, but was running late that day. I believe God uses people for a reason, and He used him to save my son."
Fuller couldn't be reached for comment Monday.
Freeman is the big brother to three sisters, ages 10, 5, and 4. Right now, the tables have turned. "He's like the baby now," said Browning. "They are trying to take care of him."
Freeman has played the cello for five or six years, and plays piano in his spare time. Browning said the family just moved to the Mundy's Mill High School district a week before the accident, so Freeman could join the Air Force ROTC program.
"He may have to be home-schooled now," she said. "We're not sure if he will be able to do ROTC now. And he's always talked about being a pilot in the Air Force. If he can't join the military, he wants to be an oncologist. He has a bright future that is slowed down now."
All Browning can do, at this point, she said, is hope that the driver can be identified and her son can have closure.
"We are just begging anyone who knows anything to come forward," she said. "Anyone who was driving in that area about 7:05, to 7:15 in the morning on Tuesday, even if you think it isn't important, please come forward."
Freeman told police the vehicle that hit him was a red or burgundy SUV or van. Anyone with information about the hit-and-run incident should call local police or 911.