The parents of a suicidal 16-year-old boy who was shot to death by a SWAT team sniper in suburban Atlanta have spoken out for the first time against the unjustified actions of the police.
Andrew Messina had threatened to kill himself after getting a bad grade in school last May. He took his father’s .357 Magnum, took swigs of alcohol from a bottle of Martini, and phoned his father to relay his suicidal thoughts – all while recording himself with a video camera.
“I do know personally I really don’t want to live,” Andrew told his father on the phone. “So you should just let this happen if you really love me.”
While he was on the phone, Lisa Messina, the boy’s mother, called the police and told the 911 operator that they should send “just one” police car to make sure her son wouldn’t panic.
“It just happened so fast, and then he went upstairs,” Lisa Messina told CBS Atlanta. “He had a gun in his hand, and he had bullets in the other hand.”
But instead of sending a police officer, the SWAT team showed up at the suburban Atlanta home, together with an armored tank and a sniper. Law enforcement officers cut off the telephone lines and put negotiators on the line to talk to the distraught teen while the house was surrounded.
On the line with negotiators, the boy angrily demanded to continue speaking with his father. Shortly thereafter, a sniper set up across the street, about 65 yards from the boy, who was on the phone near the glass door to the house.
“A minute later we heard this horrendous cannon shot and he was dead,” said Nick Messina, the boy’s father.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s office said the shooting came in response to Andrew breaking a pane of a glass door with his gun and refusing to put it down, thereby putting the officers around the house at risk. But the family claims Andrew never pointed the gun at an officer and was therefore killed without a valid reason.
“They brought an army to take out a 16-year-old-boy. To kill a 16-year-old boy,” said Nick in the interview.
“We thought that they would (be) experts in being able to diffuse the situation. And that was not what happened. Instead of the fire being put out, they brought gasoline,” he added.
The family’s attorney, Chuck Pekor, believes that even the glass door was not broken by the teen’s gun, thereby giving the sniper no reason to shoot.
“Not a single officer out there, not a one, ever saw a gun come through the hole where the break was,” he said.
Additionally, the lawyer believes the positioning of his gunshot wounds proves that Andrew was not a threat. Since the bullet entered the right side of his body, it means he must have been facing the opposite direction of the police team when he was shot, thereby not being a threat.
CBS Atlanta attempted to interview the sniper and the commander of the scene, but the sheriff’s office refused, telling reporters that “the case is closed.”
The Messina family is currently working on a lawsuit against the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.