FORT MITCHELL, Ala. (WTVM) - East Alabama community members are reacting to the tragic death of a five-year-old in Russell County who was hit by a car after his mother’s boyfriend told him to get out for allegedly misbehaving.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Russell County resident Robert Walker. “I know that that family, they’re going through it right now.”
Five-year-old Austin Birdseye was hit by a car Sunday evening on Highway 165 in Fort Mitchell. Authorities said the child was told to get out of the car in the dark and in the rain by his mother’s boyfriend, 35-year-old army sergeant Bryan Starr, who was driving.
“It was two or three miles, is my estimate, from being home,” Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said of the distance from the crash to the family’s house.
The boy then wandered into the road and was hit by an oncoming car.
“Me being an educator and working with children for 23 years, me hearing a five-year-old was put out of the car, oh that just hurts my heart,” resident Janie Owens said.
Starr, who was an active duty soldier at Fort Benning, was booked into the Russell County Jail Monday. He’s now facing a reckless murder charge.
Taylor shared in a press conference that it’s cases like this involving children that are particularly difficult for law enforcement.
“Juvenile and child deaths are harder for me because they don’t make decisions for themselves,” he said. “We’re responsible as adults for those aged children.”
Residents, too, said they feel impacted by this story, despite not knowing the family personally.
“It’s just like you lost a member of your family,” Walker said.
“I wish them well, just be strong and think about the good Lord,” Ingram said.
There is a GoFundMe set up for the family. In less than 24 hours, more than $9,000 was raised.