ATLANTA - A Georgia city official was arrested Thursday on charges of obstructing enforcement and influencing a witness in the case involving the fatal shooting of a one-year-old boy.
An attorney for Brunswick city commissioner and mayor pro tem James Henry Brooks told WTLF-TV that his client was arrested for stepping between police and Karimah Elkins, the mother of 17-year-old suspect De'Marquise Elkins, when police tried speaking with her during a court appearance Monday.
Karimah Elkins and De'Marquise's older sister, Sabrina Elkins, were charged with evidence tampering. The indictment says they threw the revolver that police suspect was used in the shooting into a saltwater pond where investigators recovered it Tuesday.
Karimah Elkins and the suspect's aunt, Katrina Elkins, were also charged with making false statements to police.
Brooks - who also faces racketeering charges in Camden County - was held Thursday night in the Glynn County jail on $1,256 bond for obstruction. The Associate Press reports that sheriff's officials said he had been held without bond on a charge of influencing a witness, but according to CBS affiliate WTEV, a Glynn County judge granted bail and he is expected to be released Friday morning.
WTEV also reports that Brooks' attorney, Alan David Tucker, released a statement asserting that Brooks was tricked into believing the alibis provided by Elkins' mother and aunt. The statement read:
"It was [Brooks'] honest belief at the time that he was trying to protect the rights of his constituents by advising them to remain silent and not make any additional statements to the police without having a lawyer present. Unfortunately, he learned later that the Elkins were not being truthful with the police when they made statements about Mr. Elkins' whereabouts during the time of the shooting."
Brooks' arrest came as investigators were looking at a possible gang tie in the slaying of a Georgia toddler. They said Thursday that a bullet used in the shooting had been recovered.
More search warrants were executed Wednesday night, though Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering didn't say specifically what evidence might have been found.
The chief did reveal Thursday that investigators have recovered the bullet they believe was fired in the killing of 13-month-old Antonio Santiago as his mother strolled him down a sidewalk on March 21 in Brunswick, a town on Georgia's coast. The bullet and a .22-caliber handgun, which was found submerged in a pond two miles from the crime scene, are now being analyzed at a crime lab.
Elkins and a 15-year-old male have been charged as adults with murder and other counts.
When asked directly whether it's possible the shooting was a part of a gang initiation, Doering wouldn't go that far, saying investigators are exploring "whether gang involvement is part of this."
Police are concerned about the safety of witnesses in the emotionally charged case, the chief said. However, he pleaded with people who have information to come forward, and to put aside their fears in the interest of justice.
"We know there are still witnesses out there, people who have information," Doering said.
An indictment returned this week accuses Elkins of shooting the child in the face.
Elkins' attorney, Kevin Gough, has said his client is "absolutely, 1,000 percent not guilty."
Two sensitivity indicators:
1. "Absolutely" weakens the assertion
2. "1,000 percent" weakens the assertion even weaker.
The second suspect is also charged with murder, though prosecutors say they believe it was Elkins who shot the child and wounded his mother in an attempted robbery.
The police chief said attempted robbery charges also were filed but nothing was taken during the killing. It still appears the slaying was random, Brunswick police said.
The few details contained in the indictment seem to back up the story that the slain baby's mother, Sherry West, has repeated to numerous reporters: She was pushing her baby in a stroller when two youths approached asking for money. West says when she refused, the older teen drew a gun and shot her in the leg before shooting her son in the head.
District Attorney Jackie Johnson said she would not seek the death penalty against either suspect because Georgia law doesn't allow capital punishment for defendants charged with crimes committed before they were 18.
Elkins was also indicted on two counts in a second attempted robbery and shooting that happened 10 days before the baby was slain.