Police say fake kidnapping call led to man's death

Accuser charged in 2008 incident

ATLANTA --- A man called police and told them he was being held at gunpoint in his captor's car. Officers soon cornered the stolen Pontiac in a parking lot. When the unarmed driver tried to flee, he was shot by police and died.


More than two years later, the police officer has been cleared of wrongdoing in the shooting of the suspect, 31-year-old Pierre George. The man who frantically called police claiming he was kidnapped was indicted this week, accused of involuntary manslaughter and making false statements to police.

However, George's family contends that prosecutors need to investigate her son's shooting again, and a citizen review panel charged with reviewing police shootings is vowing to investigate whether police followed proper procedure throughout the bizarre episode.

"We'll be looking at the case now from a different perspective and analyzing whether or not the police involved followed their own standard operating procedures," said Cristina Beamud, the board's executive director. "I'm hoping the full story will now be told."

GEORGE's MOTHER, Christine, said her son left her around 2 a.m. Dec. 19, 2008, getting into a car driven by John Wright, a 44-year-old she did not know.

A few hours later, 911 dispatchers received a distressed call from 25-year-old Jesus Aranda-Galarza, who claimed he had been kidnapped at gunpoint by George.

Authorities at first said George and Wright had kidnapped Aranda-Galarza at gunpoint and demanded money. But now it remains unclear how Aranda-Galarza got in the car, what happened after he did or what reason he would have had for making the 911 call.

Hours after the 911 call, Officer Carlos Figueroa spotted the car and cornered George in a parking lot in northeast Atlanta. Authorities said George backed the car into the officer's patrol vehicle and tried to flee.

Figueroa ordered George to show his hands and when he appeared to reach for his waistband, the officer shot George in the chest, according to authorities. No weapon was ever found.

Christine George, 52, said she heard the gunshot from a nearby Waffle House where she was hanging out -- she often stayed up all night and slept during the day -- and saw her son collapse at a phone booth.

She said at first she didn't realize he had been shot, but when she rushed to him, she remembers him saying: "Mommy, I'm not going to get up this time. I'm not going to live this time."

"I held him in my arms and I watched him slip away," the mother said in a telephone interview. "I lost my only child. He was my soul mate, my friend and my son. He was everything to me."

FULTON COUNTY District Attorney Paul Howard's office cleared Figueroa of wrongdoing in December after a yearlong investigation. Aranda-Galarza was indicted Tuesday by a grand jury that concluded his false report led to the killing. Attempts to contact Aranda-Galarza and his attorney were not immediately successful.

The office has not released more details on might have motivated Aranda-Galarza.

"Aranda-Galarza told police George had kidnapped him at gunpoint, creating the false impression of dangerousness," Howard said in a statement. "Because he caused this senseless death, Mr. Aranda-Galarza should be held accountable."