HOW TO HELP
A family member has started a fundraising campaign to pay for Lakita Hicks’ funeral. Any extra funds raised will be used to create a scholarship fund for her son. To donate, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/5smjzbp8
CALL IN A TIP
Anyone with information on this case is asked to call 423-698-2525.
Source: Chattanooga Police Department
On the phone with the 911 dispatchers, the 5-year-old boy asks again and again if police can come.
He sounds quiet, scared and all alone.
"My mama and my daddy got shot," the boy tells the dispatcher.
"They're fighting?" she asks.
"No," the boy says. "This dude shot them."
Later in the call, the dispatcher asks the boy where his parents are now, and he tells her they're both inside the house.
"Are they talking to you?" she asks.
"No, they dead," he replies.
"Both of them?"
"Uh-huh," he says. "I'm all by myself."
The boy, who will not be identified by the Times Free Press because he is a minor, witnessed the death of his parents, Lakita Hicks, 25, and George Dillard, 24, around 10:30 p.m. Sunday. Both Hicks and Dillard were shot and killed while in their home at 2106 E. 13th St.
Hicks was the boy's mother, and Dillard, while not his biological father, was helping raise the boy.
During the seven-minute, 28-second call, the boy is able to tell dispatchers what street he lives on, what color his house is and whether there is a car parked out front. He describes what happened and tells the dispatcher he started crying during the incident. She tells him several times that police are on the way.
The officers arrived in less than five minutes.
Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston's office released a recording of the 911 call to the Times Free Press on Tuesday. The Times Free Press is withholding some parts of the 911 call because of police concerns about the possible danger it poses to the boy since the killer has not been arrested.
Emails exchanged between police Chief Fred Fletcher and Pinkston on Monday show the two disagreed on whether or not to release the 911 recording. Pinkston decided to release the recording — with the child's name removed — because he did not think the recording would have much impact on any future criminal prosecution, he wrote in the email.
"While I understand the concern for the safety of the child, it has already been reported a 5-year-old called 911 and photographs of his mother, father and their residence are already in the public arena," Pinkston wrote in an email to Fletcher at 4:16 p.m. Monday. "The limited relevance of the 911 phone call as pertaining to future criminal litigation is limited and does not outweigh the public's right to access this record."
Fletcher replied 14 minutes later and said he thought releasing the 911 recording would place the child in physical danger.
"I believe this decision has the potential to reveal information about the extent of the child's knowledge of this incident to the suspect(s) still at large, suspects with a demonstrated propensity to extreme violence, that may place the child and his remaining family in additional physical danger as well as unnecessary emotional distress," he responded.
Police said Tuesday they are "taking measures" to ensure the boy's safety. Melydia Clewell, spokeswoman for Pinkston, said Pinkston called the boy's grandmother on Monday and explained that releasing the 911 call could prompt someone to come forward with new evidence.
"She immediately understood his reasoning and gave her support," Clewell said.
Dillard and Hicks were the second and third people killed in Chattanooga in 2016. Police are checking into whether their deaths are related to the Jan. 25 killing of Thomas Simmons, who was gunned down while walking on Sheridan Avenue. Police said that homicide was likely gang-related.
Dillard was a validated member of the 52 Bloodstone Villians, but Fletcher said Monday it's unclear whether the double slaying was related to a particular gang fight.
Toward the end of the boy's 911 call, police are heard arriving at the home.
"Police!" someone shouts.
The boy stops answering the dispatcher.
"Hello?" she says.
"Don't move," someone says.
The dispatcher keeps the line open, listening to the noise in the room for more than two minutes. Radios squawk.
Three seconds before the end of the recording, the dispatcher speaks again.
"Oh my god."
And then the call ends.
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or firstname.lastname@example.org with tips or story ideas.
Updated Feb. 2 at 11:15 p.m.