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CLEVELAND, Ga. – Amber and Bryan Gruzenski were in town for their anniversary, when they made a quick stop to grab a bite to eat. That’s when something happened that’s now seared into their memories forever.
The couple from Florida, pulled into the Ingles grocery store parking lot for lunch when Amber saw a small blonde toddler, skipping along with his mom, “having a good day.”
It was 3-year-old Easton Cain.
Walking alongside him, his mom had her groceries in tow as they walked toward the couple.
And then it happened.
James Holcomb, 36, who was driving a Chevrolet Avalanche, struck the rear of a parked and unoccupied Ford Explorer.
Cain, police said, was standing at the rear of the Ford Explorer and was struck and pinned between the two vehicles.
“It was very chaotic. People were screaming, ‘Move the car!’ And the men were doing the best they could,” Bryan recalled.
That’s when Bryan too, leapt into action.
“I reached through the passenger side, flipped the car off. We were able to get it in neutral and get the guy out and they rolled the car back,” he said. “We were doing everything we could to get the car off. And the guy was just slumped there, he was like a sack of potatoes.”
In fact, he said, when he fell out of the car, he had his legs crossed and his head down. The driver didn’t utter a word.
“It was just chaotic, oh my God, it was chaotic,” Bryan said.
Cain’s mother was frantic, he said.
But the passersbys’ efforts weren’t enough.
Cain died in parking lot just before 1 p.m., on Jan. 17.
“He's in a better place now,” Amber said, wiping away a tear from her cheek, recalling what happened.
They stayed long enough to see the state trooper do a sobriety test on Holcomb, watching as he failed. He was handcuffed and placed in the state trooper car.
“It was more heartbreaking, because it was a senseless act. It could have been prevented,” Brian said.
With tears streaming down her face, Amber relives the horrific scene today, standing in the parking spot where it happened.
“It was just chaotic. And I couldn't sleep last night because I just kept replaying it over and over. And just praying,” Amber said. “Just praying, praying, praying. We just both burst in to tears. I just feel so bad for the parents. I can't imagine what they're going through right now. It's so hard.”
Folks have created a memorial in the parking lot where he was killed. Balloons, flowers, stuffed animals and words of sympathy fill the parking space.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family,” one card reads tucked inside a white bouquet of flowers.
And that’s where the Gruzenskis stand on Wednesday afternoon, grieving—wanting and needing to honor him in some way.
“We didn't know them. But we feel like there's a connection now. So we had to do something. I just had to do something to honor him because he didn't deserve that. The little innocent child, he didn't deserve that,” Amber said.
Several in the community and across the country, many who don’t know Cain either, are reaching out to help the family and honor the toddler via a GofundMe.com page.
Katie Edsall, of Maysville, Ga., created a GoFundMe.com page for the 3-year-old’s family with a goal of $20,000 in mind. After going live online 13 hours ago, that goal has been narrowed by more than $14,000 in donations.
“We are trying to raise money for this sweet family during this time for any expenses that arise!” Edsall wrote on the fundraising page.
“Easton was a very spunky full of life 3-year-old. Words cannot describe how sadden we all are by his tragic accident. We are trying to raise money for this sweet family during this time for any expenses that arise!” Edsall wrote.
Holcomb has been charged with first-degree vehicular homicide, DUI, reckless driving, driving with an expired license and operating a vehicle without insurance.