Four black teenagers were going door to door early this month, looking to raise money for their high school football team in Wynne, Arkansas. When they approached the home of Jerri Kelly, she held them on the ground at gunpoint until police arrived.
Kelly, who is married to a county jail administrator, was arrested and charged with four accounts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and endangering the welfare of a minor, Wynne County police told CBS News Friday.
Police arrived at Kelly’s house on Wednesday, August 7 at around 10 a.m., responding to a report of “suspicious persons,” to find the four boys on the ground, with Kelly, who is white, standing over them with a gun.
The boys were allowed to stand up and told officers they were selling discount cards to raise money for their school’s athletic program. Two of the four kids were wearing their football jerseys, according to the police report. One officer immediately recognized the students from interactions with them as a School Resource Officer.
Kelly, 46, attempted to explain herself, saying she heard a dog barking and the boys walking through the neighborhood. She said she feared for her safety after a prior home invasion. She gestured to the boys’ skin and then her own, and said, “It ain’t about that,” according to the police report.
“If you’re gonna sell cards, act like you’re selling cards,” she reportedly told police. “Be smart about it boys. Please. It’s your life you’re talking about. Don’t be silly about it.” Later, she said she “felt remorse” and asked to get in contact with the boys to buy them lunch and “put some closure on this.”
A warrant was put out for Kelly’s arrest, but she turned herself in Monday evening and was released that night on a $10,000 bond. A headshot was not initially taken, apparently because Kelly had a “medical emergency” as she was being booked.
A mugshot was taken after Kelly’s initial court appearance Thursday morning, in part because of community backlash claiming she received special treatment.
“She was afforded the same booking process and procedures as anyone that’s brought into our facility,” Cross County Sheriff’s Department Captain Jeff Nichols said. “She received no preferential treatment.”
Other members of the community said they did not notice any suspicious activity that morning.
According to the police report, Kelly’s neighbor said she could hear the boys playing outside, but said “nothing out of the ordinary” was taking place. Another neighbor said the boys appeared to be playing hide-and-seek and laughing in the street.
In their statement, the boys, who are all between the ages of 15 and 16, described being chased by a dog near Kelly’s house. The owner then approached the boys and apologized, promising the dog would not bite. They laughed about the situation and played with the dog before continuing to Kelly’s house.
The boys said they were “scared to even talk” to Kelly after she called them liars and threatened to shoot them if they moved from the ground. They said she lectured them after police arrived and insisted they look her in the eyes and shake her hand.
Wynne School District Superintendent Carl Easley said students participate in fundraising “every year,” but the district is considering stopping door-to-door fundraisers.
“We’re reviewing whether or not to let door-to-door continue,” Easley told CBS News Friday. Instead, the district encourages “going to businesses rather than individual homes, going to people you know and going with an adult.”