RUSSELL COUNTY, Ala. – A Fort Benning soldier is facing reckless murder charges after his girlfriend’s son was struck by oncoming traffic Sunday after he put the child out of a vehicle for being “unruly.”
Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said during a virtual news conference that Bryan Starr, 35, was driving when 5-year-old Austin Birdseye began “being unruly” inside the vehicle. Starr reportedly pulled the vehicle over and told Birdseye to get out of the car, then stated that he lost view of the child in the rain, WTVM reported.
Birdseye wandered onto the busy Highway 165, where he was struck by another vehicle, Taylor stated. The child later died at an area hospital.
Taylor said that Birdseye’s mother was not in the vehicle at the time of the fatal incident and that the driver of the vehicle who struck the child was not at fault but is devastated, WRBL reported.
“It’s just horrific. I can’t imagine the mother’s grief that she is going through. It’s just tough. What do you say to that? What is your thought process when you tell a 5-year-old to get out of the car on a rainy night because they were loud in the car? It’s just heartbreaking,” Taylor said.
The sheriff did say investigators are reviewing surveillance camera footage from the church parking lot where Starr pulled the vehicle over, to try to determine how long the child was left unattended outside of the vehicle, the TV station reported.
According to officials with Fort Benning, Starr has a total of 17 years of military service and is a Sgt. 1st Class assigned to 3rd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade.
Ben Garrett, a Fort Benning spokesman, released a statement that the post is cooperating with the investigation and confirming Starr is a Marengo, Illinois, native, who has been stationed in the past at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California; Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Knox, Kentucky; and Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Starr also has one combat deployment to Iraq.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic event and extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of the deceased,” Garrett stated.
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