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Daughter, 31, was killed by car; mother says Ga. police botched investigation
Family and friends of Quanisha Ball, 31, want her death to bring more awareness to the need for pedestrian safety. Ball’s mother, Courtney Thompkins, has distributed flyers near the intersection in DeKalb County, Ga., where her daughter died. (Photo left, courtesy Thompkins family; at right, Dan Whisenhunt photo for Decaturish)
A McKeesport woman has organized a walk on Wednesday (Sept. 20) to bring attention to her daughter’s death while crossing the street in Georgia.
More than 100 family members and friends will gather at 10 a.m. at the trailhead for the Great Allegheny Passage under the Boston Bridge in Elizabeth Twp. in memory of Quanisha Ball, 31, and then walk two miles.
That’s the distance, her mother alleges, that the driver who struck Ball continued on his way before returning to the accident scene outside of Atlanta.
The driver was never charged. Wednesday would have been Ball’s 32nd birthday, said her mother, Courtney Thompkins.
“It’s the first birthday since my baby isn’t here,” Thompkins said. “Quanisha was an amazing sister, daughter, a leader and we all admired her 31 years on this earth. And we miss her so much.”
Just after 6 a.m. Nov. 17, as Ball walked to work at Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute, she was struck by a Dodge Challenger, driven by a Florida man. An initial police press release blamed Ball and claimed that she “darted out into traffic” while crossing Scott Boulevard in Decatur, Ga.
But the driver was not given a drug or alcohol test to determine whether he was impaired, because officers from DeKalb County, Ga., police, who investigated the accident, deemed it unnecessary, according to published reports. No charges were filed.
Ball was buried in McKeesport & Versailles Cemetery on Nov. 28.
Thompkins and local media in Decatur both say the official account from police seems to be missing crucial information.
According to a report from the Decaturish news website, Ball was struck so hard that her body was thrown by the car. Although police said Ball was not using the crosswalk, the story by Decaturish notes that the crosswalk was closer to Ball’s destination than the spot where she was found.
It questions why Ball would have tried crossing the street at a spot further away from where she needed to be. Decaturish’s report says the evidence suggests that Ball may have been struck in the crosswalk, and thrown.
Propel ATL, a non-profit organization of bicyclists and walking enthusiasts, also questioned the police report.
On Tuesday, Tube City Almanac requested the police report from DeKalb County, Ga., and was told it was unavailable due to problems with a computer system. The Almanac has filed an open-records act request with the county legal department.
Until Ball moved to Georgia to take a job at Emory University, Thompkins says, she walked from her mother’s home in Port Vue down steep Rebecca Street to catch a bus.
“They put all this blame on Quanisha, saying that she wasn’t in a crosswalk, she darted in front of a car,” Thompkins says. “We walked all the time in McKeesport. She walked every day to Port Vue to catch her bus. This isn’t right.”
Although police told local media in Decatur that the driver who struck Ball stayed at the scene, Thompkins says she was told that the driver left the scene and returned. It was approximately 20 minutes before emergency responders were called to the accident, she says, by which time bystanders were attempting CPR to revive her.
Thompkins — who has made multiple trips to Decatur to follow up on the investigation — says she was able to view police body-cam footage of the emergency response.
Emergency responders joked about Ball’s Apple smart watch, Thompkins says, and told crews not to hurry, that Ball was “dead already.”
Thompkins hopes Wednesday’s walk will draw attention to two things — what she alleges was a half-hearted investigation by DeKalb County police, and the need for safer conditions for pedestrians, both in Georgia and here in Pennsylvania.
On Tuesday morning, a pedestrian was killed in Wilmerding as they walked along the Tri-Boro Expressway, according to Allegheny County police. The accident is under investigation.
Statistics from the non-partisan Governors Highway Safety Association indicate that in 2022, more than 7,500 pedestrians were killed by cars — the highest number since 1981.
In 2020, the most recent year for which data were available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, Georgia ranked eighth-worst out of 50 states for the number of pedestrian fatalities per population. Pennsylvania was ranked 40th.
The Governors’ association report blames the increase in part on larger vehicles — especially trucks and SUVs — becoming more popular than cars and suggests possible solutions should include better driver education, slower speed limits in areas frequented by pedestrians, and better highway designs that accommodate wider crosswalks and safety islands.
“We’re trying to organize how we can work on these laws to get them changed,” says Thompkins, who says Fawn Walker-Montgomery and the Take Action Advocacy Group — formerly Take Action Mon Valley — have been helping her. “We talk about ending gun violence or domestic violence — well, if you hit someone with your car, that’s violence, too. People become numb and settle for it. But my daughter’s life matters.”
Ball had moved to Georgia to build her life and advance her career, and was flourishing until her untimely death, her mother says.
“She was a great young lady and her life was a legacy,” Thompkins says. “This man killed my daughter and there’s nothing happening to him. That’s not right at all. I can’t allow that. And I don’t want anyone else to lose a loved one in this way.”
Thompkins says anyone interested in contacting her about the walk, or about lobbying local and state officials to improve pedestrian safety, can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Togyer is volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. and editor of Tube City Almanac.
Originally published September 19, 2023.