When she saw a man pulling his toddler out of the backseat of an SUV, a Cobb County woman said she knew right away something was wrong. The boy wasn’t the right color and didn’t appear to be breathing, the witness told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“I knew something was wrong,” Artiyka Eastland, 25, of Smyrna, said Monday afternoon. “I didn’t want to get too close. I was emotional, just from afar.”
Eastland was eating in a restaurant Wednesday afternoon when she went outside, planning to plug her cellphone in inside her car. That’s when she heard the sound of screeching tires and watched helplessly as a man got out of his SUV and frantically tried to revive his 22-month-old son. Others in the busy parking lot also tried to help, but it was too late.
Cooper Harris was dead. And within hours, the boy’s father, Justin Ross Harris, was arrested was charged with murder and cruelty to children, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported.
An autopsy conducted on Cooper should answer some questions for Cobb County police, including whether the information the child’s father gave police is accurate.
But police said Monday the autopsy report is not ready to be released, and it’s not known when it will be available.
“We understand the emotion involved with this case,” Officer Mike Bowman said in an email. “We are still investigating this case and it is an active and ongoing investigation.”
Ross Harris, 33, of Marietta, told police he left work at a Home Depot office shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday, and within minutes, realized he had never dropped off his son at daycare that morning, Sgt. Dana Pierce said at the scene. Harris pulled into a shopping center parking lot, where he and others tried unsuccessfully to revive the boy.
“It was horrible,” Eastland said. “That was the last thing I would ever expect to see.”
With his son dead on the concrete, a distraught Harris had to be handcuffed by officers, who later drove the man to Cobb police headquarters, Pierce said. At 10 p.m., Harris was arrested and charged with two felonies.
Though some believe the charges are too steep, additional details about the investigation have not been released, and District Attorney Vic Reynolds has confirmed the investigation is not over.
Harris’ arrest prompted a grassroots petition aiming to get the murder charge dropped. Thousands of people have signed an online petition on the change.org site directed to Reynolds.
“This is a horrible accident,” the petition states. “The father loved his son immensely. These were very loving parents who are devastated. Justin already has to live with a punishment worse than death.”
Harris remains in the Cobb County jail without bond.