Four black teenagers held at gunpoint by white woman while fundraising for football team.


At first, the high school football players thought the woman waving the gun was joking.

Then she started yelling and cursing, before forcing them to the ground.

The four boys, aged 15 and 16, had spent the morning in their Arkansas town going door-to-door selling discount cards for their annual high school football team fundraiser. 

This took them to the home of a 46-year-old stranger named Jerri Kelly on 3 August.

But before the teenagers even knocked on her door, Ms Kelly emerged with a chrome-plated revolver, according to a police report.

She swore as she told them to lie down, spread their legs and place their arms behind their back, the boys told police. When they tried to explain they were fundraising for school – not stealing – she allegedly called them liars.

When one black teenager tried to swat at a mosquito, Ms Kelly allegedly threatened to shoot if he did not stop moving.

“We was scared,” one of the teens told police. “I thought she was going to shoot me in the head how she was acting.”

She has been charged with four counts each of aggravated assault and false imprisonment, both felonies, and four counts of endangering the welfare of a minor, a misdemeanour.

The former law enforcement employee and wife of a cross country jail administrator was arrested, booked and bonded out on 12 August without having her mug shot taken. 

Locals were critical of her treatment, calling it preferential. 

Days later, she returned and had her mug shot taken.

“I’m professional. My department is professional. There was no special treatment,” sheriff David West said, explaining the woman had a “medical issue” during her initial booking. 

At Wynne High School, where the teens are students, administrators are re-evaluating how to handle student fundraising efforts, the local public schools superintendent Carl Easley said.

In the Wynne neighbourhood, some residents remain unsettled.

“They’re just kids,” resident of 40 years Bill Winklertold said. “You worry about your neighbourhood, and you wonder who is this person.”

All witnesses interviewed by police said the teenagers had done nothing to provoke Ms Kelly. 

In four separate statements, the boys – who authorities did not name because they are minors – offered similar versions of how that morning began.

They left football practice, two of them dressed in their jerseys and two in street clothes, to set out selling cards. They walked to get water, then started knocking on doors, where they took turns delivering their pitch and hanging back by the street. At one home, a black dog began chasing them, so they hopped into the back of a nearby pickup truck for shelter.

The owner emerged to apologise and assure them the dog was friendly, according to the teens’ statements. They jumped out of the truck, played with the pup and laughed over the situation as they continued down the block towards their next house, where they met a grey-haired woman with a gun.

When the teens approached her house, they did not know that Ms Kelly had already reported them as “suspicious persons” to police.

She told police in a statement that she heard “yelling and screaming” and dogs barking outside her residence, then watched as four males walked  towards her neighbours’ house.

“All males were African American and I know this residence to [be] white,” she said.

The woman told police she saw them “horseplaying” in the driveway and “aggravating the dog that lived there”.  Ms Kelly said she feared for her safety when they walked towards her house, so she grabbed her gun and called her husband to send over police.

By the time officers arrived about eight minutes later, Kelly already had the teens on the ground at gunpoint. She asked if they knew whose house they were at, demanded they show her their IDs and told them to keep their heads down, the boys told authorities.

A resource officer who worked at their school recognised them. He told them they could get up and stand by the patrol car.

Ms Kelly called them back and proceeded to lecture them, saying it might appear her actions were racially motivated but “it ain’t about that”.

She told the boys they were acting “suspicious” and did not look like salesmen.

“Don’t act like that. Be men about it and sell cards,” she told them, according to the police report. “Be smart about it boys. Please. It’s your life you’re talking about. Don’t be silly about it. All right. For me, will you do that.”​

An hour later, Kelly asked for the boys’ contact information so she could buy them lunch to “put some closure on this”, according to the arrest report. She said she “felt remorse” after she learning they were fundraising, but she reiterated they did not look like they were doing so. 

Ms Kelly could not immediately be reached for comment.

The grandmother of one of the 16-year-old boys, who did not want to be identified, told News Channel 3 that her grandson was traumatized from the encounter with Kelly.

The woman said her grandson told her: “‘Every time I close my eyes, I see that gun’.”