Teen tried as adult in hit-and-run

Garfield Lawson

Garfield Lawson

LAWRENCEVILLE -- The Lawrenceville teenager accused of fatally striking a 9-year-old pedestrian in April will be tried as an adult on a number of charges -- vehicular homicide apparently not among them.

Police say 17-year-old Garfield Lawson struck and killed 9-year-old Gracelle Sanders on April 19, fleeing the scene on Club Drive. According to police reports, Lawson "dropped off three ... friends that were in the vehicle with him" before driving to a nearby QuikTrip gas station and wiping down the front of his car with cleaning fluid.

He then reportedly called the police and said that he himself had been the victim of a hit-and-run at another intersection. Lawson, 16 at the time, had only a learner's permit.

Lawson was arrested soon after the incident and charged with first-degree vehicular homicide, hit and run, false report of a crime, tampering with evidence and violating driver's license restrictions. He was taken to the Regional Youth Detention Center in Lawrenceville, police said at the time.

However, online records show the former student at GIVE Center East was transferred to Gwinnett County Jail last week after indictments were filed in Gwinnett Superior Court.

Reached Tuesday, District Attorney Danny Porter said only that Lawson would be tried as an adult "on the charges which were transferred." According to online court records, those charges include hit-and-run, tampering with evidence and two counts of false report of a crime. Vehicular homicide is not listed among them, though it is the lone charge listed on his jail booking sheet.

Attorney Wesley Person, who is defending Lawson, declined comment Tuesday when asked if he could explain details regarding the original vehicular homicide charge.

"I'm afraid I cannot," he said.

The April incident renewed some residents' concerns about the safety of pedestrians on Club Drive near a park bearing the same name, pointing to the need for sidewalks, crosswalks and additional traffic lights.

Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said the county would be "looking closely" at pedestrian safety in the area.

Sanders, the 9-year-old victim, was not in a crosswalk when she was struck. In part because of that fact, police said, things could have turned out quite differently for Lawson.

"It's quite possible he would not have faced any charges had he stayed (at the scene)," Gwinnett County police spokesman Cpl. Edwin Ritter said.