LITHONIA, Ga. – Police have arrested a man they say was driving the car that hit and seriously injured a 9-year-old girl playing in her front yard in suburban Atlanta. But the man's lawyer said his client was trying to fight off a carjacker at the time of the wreck.
News outlets report that Gabriel Jabri Fordham, 28, surrendered to police Tuesday evening. Fordham faces charges, including hit and run and serious injury by vehicle, in the crash Friday that left LaDerihanna Holmes with a fractured skull and broken pelvis, among other injuries.
Another girl who was playing with LaDerihanna right before the wreck suffered bruising when her foot got stuck between the car and the house, she told WSB-TV .
In dramatic security camera video, the black Ford Fusion is seen hitting a stop sign and then careening across the front yard before hitting LaDerihanna as she tries to get out of the way. The crash happened in Lithonia, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of Atlanta.
Fordham's attorney Ryan Williams told WSB-TV a man jumped into Fordham's car, put a gun in his face and made him drive.
"My client tried to take the gun from him, the guy hits him in the face, my client blacks out, and that's why you see the full fledge force of them going through a stop sign," Williams told the television station.
Williams said a man in white pants who can be seen in the video running from the car just after the crash is the person who attacked his client. Fordham initially stuck around after the crash, but left after interacting with people who came out of the house.
"With emotions rising, he had no opportunity to stay there, without possibly being harmed," Williams said.
Fordham's girlfriend owns the car and the couple contacted police the day of the crash, Williams said. They had been negotiating a surrender in the days that followed.
"He has not been trying to hide in the shadows," Williams said.
Authorities said Fordham was booked into the DeKalb County jail on charges of failure to maintain lane, failure to stop at a stop sign, reckless driving, hit and run and serious injury by vehicle.
LaDerihanna's mother, Charlette Bolton, said Monday that her daughter has a long road of doctor visits and physical therapy ahead of her and that she has to learn how to walk again, but Bolton said doctors expect the girl to make a full recovery.