EXCLUSIVE: New information could be critical to the Priceville officer-involved shooting investigation

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Family members and friends of the 15-year-old shot and killed by law enforcement on July 7, continue to plead for answers about the circumstances surrounding his death.

According to the Priceville Police Department, the young man stole a car at a rest stop in Falkville, then led law enforcement on a 30-plus mile high-speed chase, before crashing and putting an officer's life in danger in the heart of Huntsville.

Officials have released very little information about the case, including the name of the driver or the officer involved. But family members reached out to us and told us the teenager's name is Gabriel Sage Barnes.

Over the last several days, WHNT News 19's Chris Davis has been investigating Gabriel's background, an investigation that continues to reveal new information. Information that could be critical to the case.

Before Gabriel Barnes ran away from his foster home in the days prior to the police chase, he ran away previously. Gabriel and a teenage girl ran away earlier this year to continue a romantic relationship, but the pair were eventually located  in Texas and returned to Tennessee.

According to that girl's mother, who spoke to us in an exclusive interview, the car that was used to assist their flight from home may have been the same car that Gabriel stole the night of his death.

"What were the police told to get them to chase that boy like that?" asked Carrie Adkins.

While questions about the long police chase and shooting remain unanswered, we're starting to learn more about the long road that may have brought Gabriel to this situation in the first place.

It begins with the death of his mother last year.

“A part of him died too. It did. He talked about his mom all the time," says Carrie Adkins, a family friend of Barnes.

Carrie Adkins says Gabe was never the same after his mother's untimely death.  He briefly lived with his step-father, but a missing person's report from Monroe County, Tennessee, shows he ran away in January 2017 and jumped from house to house, hiding out for months.

"I knew he was a runaway. So it was like he kind of dropped off the radar there for a while because he didn’t want to be caught," says Adkins. 

Carrie's daughter Alyssa was dating Gabriel at the time, but Carrie became alarmed about the relationship when the teenager ran from home.

“I think that he was just very depressed. He was sad. I think he thought nobody in the world loved him," she says.

When Carrie told the couple the relationship couldn't continue, Alyssa and Gabe decided to run away together.

“I just went through recent contacts and started calling people like crazy," says Adkins.

Carrie didn't just rely on the Monroe County Sheriff's office in Tennessee to search for her daughter, she made fliers. She searched frantically for a week, until Alyssa finally called.

“And she was really frantic. She was like, 'Mom, please, it’s not what, oh my God she’s bad, it’s real bad,'" she says.

Carrie found out later, her daughter, Gabe and two other runaways from the community got a ride to Houston, Texas, from an adult.

“In the same car Gabe died in, my daughter went to Texas in that car," says Carrie.

"How certain are you that that’s the same red Mustang that was involved in the police chase?" asked Davis.

"I am. I am fairly certain that is the same vehicle," she replied.

We have made several attempts to request who that Mustang was registered to, but various agencies have said they can't provide that while the investigation is ongoing.

However, court documents indicate the teenager likely received adult help running away. 20-year-old Memory Medlin was arrested by Houston Police for harboring a runaway child and providing alcohol to minors.

“She was telling the kids how to act. She was teaching them the rules or something. She said, 'So however old you are, you add 3 years to that,'" explained Adkins.

She says the state ultimately flew Gabriel back to Tennessee. Only this time, instead of being returned to his stepfather's care, he was admitted into foster care.

"He’s trying to take care of 3 other children. He couldn’t handle Gabe’s rebellion or whatever’s going on. It was just a lot on him," she says.

Carrie says Gabe's first foster placement was a good one but only temporary. His permanent placement was further away in a neighboring county where he didn't know anyone.

He eventually ran away again. Which brings us to the morning of July 7th when Alyssa received a text from Gabriel.

“He told Alyssa that he was trying to make some money and that he would love if they could be back together but that your mom would never let that happen," says Adkins.

Little did Alyssa know at the time, this would be their final conversation.

“The best way she can deal with it right now is she’s been getting out stuff that reminds her of the good things. She’s been looking at the drawings on the wall that Gabe made her," says Adkins.

Now Alyssa holds on to that artwork, the last tangible connection to Gabe.

“I really think that Alyssa showed him some attention and cared for him. And, he just felt like he fell in love with her because she listened to him," she says. 

“Was there any adult in his life that was looking after for him?” Davis asked.

“I don’t think he had an adult he could really rely on or depend on," Adkins replied.

The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into the shooting portion of all this. Once their findings are compiled, it will ultimately be up to the Morgan County District Attorney as to whether any criminal charges will be filed against the Priceville officer.

The department says they're confident the officer acted appropriately, considering his life was in danger.

As we learn more, we'll update you on the WHNT News 19 app.