A soldier has been arrested after police say he forced a young boy out of his car on an Alabama highway, where the 5-year-old was fatally struck by another car.
Bryan Starr, a 35-year-old active-duty Army sergeant at Fort Benning in Georgia, has been accused of the murder of his girlfriend’s son, Austin Birdseye, according to the Ledger-Enquirer. Russell County Sheriff’s deputies said Starr on November 29 ordered the boy out of his Dodge Charger in a church parking lot after he became “unruly,” the newspaper reported.
After losing sight of the boy, Starr told police he found several cars stopped along Alabama Highway 165, where Austin was fatally struck by an oncoming Toyota Avalon, the outlet continued.
The boy later died at a nearby hospital, the Ledger-Enquirer said.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic event and extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of the deceased,” Fort Benning spokesman Ben Garrett said in a statement to WITN.
Starr turned himself in to the Russell County Sheriff’s Office, WTVM reported. State troopers are investigating the incident, while the sheriff’s office is conducting “the murder probe,” the station added.
Here’s what you need to know:
Austin Was Hit Just 2 Miles From His Home in Fort Mitchell, Alabama, According to Local Media
According to the Ledger-Enquirer, Austin was hit and killed just two miles from his Fort Mitchell home, where his mother Christina Birdseye lives with Starr.
Starr said he took the the boy on a drive to “calm him down” after he acted out at home, the newspaper reported. The Russell County sheriff expressed that the soldier was driving on an “exceptionally dangerous road” when he forced the child out of the car, the Ledger-Enquirer continued.
“For him to put a child out in the area on purpose and intentionally tell the child to get out of the car, I’m struggling following the mindset there,” Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said to the outlet.
“I hope it serves as a lesson to parents. There’s way to discipline your child… but we have to do it the right way and we can’t do it in a way that’s going to potentially bring harm.”
Police say the driver of the Toyota is not at fault, the newspaper disclosed.
Starr Has Previously Been Deployed to Iraq & Is Currently Assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade in Fort Benning, Media Reported
An Illinois native, Starr is currently assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 16th Cavalry Regiment, 316th Cavalry Brigade, in Columbus, Georgia, The New York Post reported, citing Fort Benning officials.
He shared a home with the Birdseye family “just over the border in southeast Alabama,” Army Times said.
Starr has 17 years of military experience under his belt and was previously deployed to Iraq, according to WTVM.
A GoFundMe for the Family Has Raised Over $7,400 so Far
A GoFundMe was created on December 1 to help support the grieving family with Austin’s funeral costs, stating:
Austin was always the center of any impromptu living room dance party, the wonderful little boy who would chat about almost anything and with anyone in the grocery store, the one who knew all the words to every song as he sung them at the top of his lungs while in the car,’ a tribute on the page reads.
He was always loving and never let any opportunity pass him by to enjoy fun. We are absolutely devastated by Austin’s passing and are asking if anyone would like to help in supporting The Angel Fund of Austin Birdseye to help in supporting Christina during this time.
So far, the fundraiser has generated over $7,400.