Georgia teen reportedly injured, and Delaware troopers’ response is probed

Five teenagers said to be involved in a “doorbell ditch” prank in which one of the pranksters was allegedly assaulted now face allegations of trespassing, police in Georgia said Friday.

The incident Sunday on Tybee Island, outside Savannah, was one of two nationally last month in which the prank, where teenagers ring a doorbell or knock on a doorand then flee, ended in violence. In Delaware, the family and lawyer of a prankster say a state trooper assaulted him when doorbell ditch came to the officer’s own doorstep.

The Tybee Island Police Department said the unnamed suspects were facing recommended charges of criminal trespassing. The investigators’ case has been forwarded to a juvenile court for consideration.

The resident whose home was targeted was arrested Monday after allegedly hiding out with the knowledge he was wanted, police said in a statement. The suspect, William Cole, allegedly chased teens down in a vehicle and tried to strike them before getting out, grabbing one, and choking him, police alleged.

No serious injuries were reported.

Cole was arrested based on a warrant that included allegations of aggravated assault and child cruelty, police said. It wasn’t clear if he has retained legal counsel, and the area public defender’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In Delaware, a state trooper was suspended this week after a “doorbell ditch” stunt at his home ended with a teenage prankster in the hospital and questions about authorities’ forceful response.

That incident happened Aug. 21 when two or more teenagers went to the door of a home and one of them kicked it before they fled, according to Samuel Davis, an attorney retained by the family of the injured teen.

The prank was captured on Ring doorbell video, which led state troopers to his client, he said.

According to Davis’ account, the 15-year-old he refers to as Jayden kicked the door and fled, and, as he walked in the area some time later, noticed a helicopter overhead and a state patrol unit behind. The teen, a student at a high school for academic achievers, surrendered after he was ordered to the ground, Davis said.

Troopers put their knees on his neck and back, and then one of them kicked him on the side of his torso, Davis said.

“I want my mom,” the lawyer quotes Jayden as saying. “He was begging for his life and begging for his mother.”

The teenager was handcuffed, put in a patrol vehicle, driven to an empty parking lot, and held until a trooper who resides at the home targeted in the prank arrived, Davis said.

State authorities have not named the trooper.

The officer shone a flashlight on the teen and punched him in the face, the lawyer alleged. He recounted what Jayden said the trooper told him: So, you want to play “ding dong ditch” at a trooper’s house?

After waiting a half-hour for medical attention, the teen was hospitalized, the lawyer said. He suffered a fracture in bone structure around an eye and had pain in his jaw, he said.

The orbital rim fracture will require surgery, Davis said, and the teenager has neurological symptoms stemming from trauma to his head.

At the hospital that day, Jayden was handcuffed to a stretcher and kept in a bay guarded by two other state troopers before his mother was told it was all a misunderstanding and the teen released from custody, the lawyer said.

State troopers that day also surrounded the Delaware home of another teenager they believed was involved in the prank but who had nothing to do with it, Davis said. He’s also representing that teen’s family.

A third teenager who drove near the scene of Jayden’s arrest was ordered out of his vehicle at gunpoint that night, the lawyer said. It wasn’t clear if he was part of the prank. Shocked neighbors took video of the incident, Davis said.

Delaware State Police have not responded to specific elements of Jayden’s story, which were also alleged by a relative of the teen in a Facebook post that has since been deleted.

In a statement, the state agency spoke in broad terms and said the trooper whose home was targeted has been suspended pending the conclusion of an investigation.

“We take these allegations extremely seriously,” it said. “We are also investigating whether or not there was any failure to intervene by other DSP personnel who were present.”

The Delaware State Troopers Association did not respond to a request for comment.

Davis said he’s working on getting troopers’ body camera footage from Jayden’s detention released by the state agency. A key question, he said, is how someone inside the trooper’s home — he says the trooper was away on-duty — was able to communicate in a way that summoned a number of officers, a helicopter unit, and a canine unit, he said.

911 was not used, Davis said.

The credibility of state troopers was on the line, Davis said. In response, the agency stated: “At our core, the Delaware State Police values our community’s trust.”

In July, Anurag Chandra, 45, was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole after he ran a car full of teenagers off a road in Southern California in 2020, killing three.

The teens had been involved in a doorbell ditch prank at the man’s home in the community of Temescal Valley about 60 miles southeast of Los Angeles, prosecutors said.

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