FORT MITCHELL, Ala. – A 5-year-old boy was struck and killed by a vehicle on a busy Alabama highway Sunday night after reportedly being forced out of a car as punishment.
Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor told WTVM that the boy, Austin Birdseye, was riding in the car with his mother’s boyfriend, 35-year-old Bryan Starr, when the child began “being unruly.”
Taylor told CBS News that Starr had taken the boy on a drive that night to “calm him down” after he acted up at home.
During the drive, Taylor says Starr pulled over, told Birdseye to get out of the vehicle and then lost sight of him in the rain. The boy ended up wandering onto Highway 165 in Fort Mitchell, where he was fatally hit, according to the sheriff.
Starr was arrested on a murder charge, but he has since bonded out of jail, CBS reports. If convicted, he could reportedly face 20 years to life in prison.
Taylor believes Starr made a horrible decision. He said he understands trying to discipline the child, but the way Starr did it was “mind-boggling.” He told CBS that 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," Taylor said.
Starr is in the military, stationed at Fort Benning. In a statement obtained by WTVM, the U.S. Army post said it is deeply saddened by the tragic event and is cooperating with local law enforcement.