Davis’ sister to GBI: ‘I don’t think anybody should die because they were at Kroger’

jkovac@macon.comMarch 21, 2013 

As weeks passed and authorities said little to nothing about what prompted a Macon cop to shoot and kill an unarmed man outside the midtown Kroger in late December, the dead man’s family didn’t know what to think.

“That’s what is killing me day to day,” Sammie Davis Jr.’s sister told GBI agents in mid January, more than three weeks after his Dec. 21 death. “And nobody tells me anything. You know how I learn things? From watching TV.”

Cheryl Davis couldn’t figure how the 49-year-old brother she looked after had come to be gunned down outside the Pio Nono Avenue supermarket he frequented.

She spoke of her dismay in a Jan. 14 interview with the GBI. A recording of that interview, obtained by The Telegraph through an open records request, offers a grieving sister’s account of who Sammie Davis was. It also reveals his family’s mounting frustration over being kept in the dark about his death.

Officials last week said police officer Clayton Sutton was justified in using deadly force in the Dec. 21 shooting.

Officials told how an 84-year-old woman called 911 after Sammie Davis spooked her in the Kroger parking lot. Sutton was dispatched to the store, where he and Davis struggled with one another. Davis was shot three times after he clawed Sutton’s neck with his fingernails.

But Davis’ family appeared to know little of that two months ago when it met with the GBI.

One of the first questions came, not from investigators, but from the family’s attorney, Forrest Johnson, who asked GBI agents, “How far have you guys gotten so far?”

The agents said they couldn’t discuss that or provide details of what went on in front of the Kroger the afternoon Sammie Davis died.

Cheryl Davis, 51, said her brother had a “mental disability,” but that he hadn’t been taking medicine for it for a few years. She said his condition improved after he quit taking it.

She said her brother, who she began taking care of after their mother died a few years back, would march off to the Kroger most mornings.

“We would joke that that was his job,” she said.

Sammie Davis liked to sit at the picnic tables beneath the supermarket’s facade.

About 20 minutes into the conversation with the agents, Cheryl Davis broke down.

Agent Blair Sasnett had reassured her and four of her relatives that he was conducting an independent probe. Sasnett and the family’s lawyer were talking matter of factly about the case.

“I’m sorry,” Cheryl Davis said, sobbing. “This is really not something I want to do. I’m sitting up here and you all are talking about this just like it’s ... just, my brother is gone. I don’t know why. And I don’t think anybody should die because they were at Kroger.”

Johnson, the attorney, told how the Davises were “naturally suspicious” of police, in part because of the lack of answers.

Johnson told of a visit Mayor Robert Reichert paid at the family’s Hillyer Avenue residence.

“Why even have a conversation with you (the GBI) if the mayor of the city walks into this lady’s house ... and said, ‘Listen, we think the shooting was justified.’ ... You see the problem it presents? ... You guys are asking us for information. The mayor’s already told them they’ve made a decision,” Johnson said.

In January, Reichert acknowledged visiting the family but denied suggesting the police officer had been cleared.

“I never tried to give the impression that I knew what the outcome was going to be,” the mayor said then.

The GBI’s Sasnett, in his Jan. 14 meeting with the Davis family, emphasized that he didn’t answer to the district attorney, the police or the mayor.

Sasnett at times referred to Sammie Davis as “Mister Sammie.”

Cheryl Davis said her brother was “a gentle person. He was kind.” She said he walked younger members of the family to their bus stop when they were little, that he escorted them to a public pool in the summertime.

She said he was never violent or in trouble. He liked watching westerns on TV and pulled for the Dallas Cowboys.

“I don’t remember him being antagonistic,” she said.

She wasn’t keen on him going to Kroger all the time, but the people there, customers included, befriended him. She knew he asked people for money, a dollar or two.

Still, Cheryl Davis said, “I would ask him not to go, because my fear was somebody would hurt him.”

She said, “His appearance may have been disheveled. After our parents died, I do believe that he went into a deep depression and he wouldn’t care for himself the way he used to. Used to, he was fastidious and obsessive about his cleanliness and the way he looked.”

After five of their close relatives died in the past decade, her brother seemed to cope with it by going to the Kroger, “to sit up there ... and drink those sodas,” she said.

Regulars knew him as “Mister Big K,” a nickname that reflected his taste for Kroger-brand soft drinks. Others knew him as “Junebug.”

“He would ask you for something,” his sister recalled, “but he wouldn’t badger you.”

She said he was usually home by 8 or 9 at night.

“The thing that I am having a real problem with now, you know, every night about 8:30 or 9 o’clock I don’t hear that knock,” Cheryl Davis told the GBI.

“I would say, ‘Who is it?’ He would say, ‘It’s me, Na-Na.’ ... Now he’s gone.”

She said if her brother and Sutton “got into an altercation, then that man did something to scare Junebug. He said something to make Junebug fear him. I fuss at Junebug about his room. He wouldn’t even raise his voice. I would tell him, ‘You need to take a bath. You smell.’ ‘OK, Na-Na.’ ... He never raised a hand to me. ... Somebody did something to make Junebug scratch the man -- if that’s what happened.”

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.


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