Atlanta police make arrest in shooting death of Clark Atlanta student

Clark Atlanta canceled classes Thursday as part of effort to support grieving students
The Atlanta Police Department and Clark Atlanta University police hold a press conference on Thursday, March 2, 2023, to announce an arrest in the shooting death of Clark Atlanta University student Jatonne Sterling. Clark Atlanta University Chief Debra Williams (from left), APD Deputy Chief Charles Hampton Jr. and APD Detective Patrick Deegan participated in the news conference.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

The Atlanta Police Department and Clark Atlanta University police hold a press conference on Thursday, March 2, 2023, to announce an arrest in the shooting death of Clark Atlanta University student Jatonne Sterling. Clark Atlanta University Chief Debra Williams (from left), APD Deputy Chief Charles Hampton Jr. and APD Detective Patrick Deegan participated in the news conference. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Atlanta police announced Thursday they have arrested a 25-year-old man in Tuesday’s shooting death of Clark Atlanta University student Jatonne Sterling.

Keontay Holliman-Peoples was charged with felony murder, aggravated assault and other charges. The suspect’s last known address is in Tennessee, police said. He is not a Clark Atlanta student, police said.

Deputy Chief Charles Hampton Jr. said Sterling and the accused shooter knew each other, and “this was not a random homicide.” He said the two communicated prior to the day of the shooting and also that same morning.

“I know the students are alarmed, but any time we have any homicide like this, we try to let the community know we’re on top of it,” Hampton said.

Sterling got inside a vehicle parked behind a Catholic campus ministry, which was near a residence hall in the heart of the Atlanta University Center, police said. Some type of dispute occurred, and the argument escalated into gunfire. Police said a third man, whom police were trying to track down, was also in the car when the incident took place. Police said Holliman-Peoples was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital to recover from injuries sustained during the gunfire. The car, a white Toyota, has been recovered and is being processed for evidence.

Investigators are still working out who had weapons and other details of what exactly happened inside the car. The suspect has a criminal history in two states, Hampton said.

Clark Atlanta University student Jatonne Sterling, 20, was fatally shot Tuesday near campus. (Courtesy of Ernest Radcliffe)

Credit: Photo courtesy of Ernest Radcliffe

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Credit: Photo courtesy of Ernest Radcliffe

Meanwhile, on campus, Clark Atlanta canceled classes Thursday to give students a break from their academic schedule in the wake of the death of Sterling, a 20-year-old sophomore from Chicago who was on the university’s baseball team.

Over the last few days, some Clark Atlanta students have taken to social media to express concerns about safety, security levels and how the school communicated with students after the incident.

Clark Atlanta’s chief of police, Debra Williams, who appeared alongside Atlanta police at Thursday’s news conference, said patrols around campus have increased to help students feel safer.

She acknowledged that an alert that went out to students after Tuesday’s shooting was delayed, due to “other parameters surrounding this particular incident.” But she said, “the information did go out to our community.”

A Clark Atlanta spokeswoman said classes were canceled Thursday “for students as a time of reflection and solidarity.” Grief counselors are on campus. The university also scheduled a town hall for Friday to hear from students.

Clark Atlanta University students held several vigils Wednesday to pay tribute to sophomore Jatonne Sterling, who was fatally shot near campus on Tuesday. On Wednesday, some students gathered by the Catholic campus ministry building outside which the shooting took place. (Courtesy of Rudy Schlosser)

Credit: Rudy Schlosser

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Credit: Rudy Schlosser

Leaders at the Lyke House, the Catholic center outside which the shooting took place, held a small prayer vigil Wednesday afternoon.

Later that evening, many more Clark Atlanta students gathered for another vigil, where students lit candles and released red balloons into the night sky to pay tribute to Sterling.

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