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Attorneys say they’ve seen ‘doctored’ video, plan to launch independent investigation after elevator collapses and student dies

The student athlete died at the hospital after crews extricated him when he became pinned between the second and third floors of a building.

ATLANTA — The family of a student who died in an elevator accident that happened inside a mixed-use building in Old Fourth Ward collapsed spoke publicly for the first time since the accident.

JauMarcus McFarland, a Champion Prep Academy football player, was pinned between the second and third floors of 444 Highland Avenue NE on Aug. 31.

According to Atlanta Fire, McFarland was rushed next door to the Atlanta Medical Center with a faint pulse after crews initiated an hour-long extrication. The Missouri student-athlete later died there.

Now, his family and their attorneys have spoken out for the first time since McFarland's death and they said they want answers. Attorneys with The Cochran Firm addressed the media and public at their law offices along with the family.

"At the end of the day, this shouldn't have happened. There's no excuse for it and we will get to the bottom line," said Shean Williams, a partner at the firm.

McFarland's family said they've been given "the run around" for the last week. They said they've heard different stories about that tragic day, and that they've seen what lawyers called "doctored video" from the incident. 

Williams said the family attorneys are planning to conduct their own independent investigation into the incident.

Credit: Courtesy of Champion Prep Academy owner Michael Carson
Jaumarcus McFarland

"My son came here to do what he liked to do and that was play football," McFarland's mother Jessica Moore said. "And he really enjoyed that and he wasn't able to fulfill that and I just want answers."

Body camera video later released of the accident appears to show a crowd of people on the elevator as some jump off safely, while McFarland became pinned.

An official with the state insurance commissioner's office told 11Alive inspectors have already come out to investigate the cause of the elevator collapse, but they're still working to determine exactly what happened.

At this time, no lawsuits have been filed. The family attorney said they don't know what happened to even file one, but they plan to hold everyone responsible for McFarland's untimely death accountable. During the press conference, one attorney said their investigation will look into the prep academy, the apartment building owners, and the distributor of the elevator. 

"I just don't comprehend it," the 18-year-old's stepfather, James Boyce said. "I'd just like to know what happened."

An online fundraiser is now raising money to help his family cover his funeral expenses.