During four days this week, shootings in four metro Atlanta counties killed three teenagers and injured two others. Then on the fifth day, a 1-month-old baby was injured when a gunshot was fired into his Atlanta apartment.
It’s a trend seen nationwide: children and teens continue to be the victims of gun violence. Sometimes, they are also the ones firing. Despite pleas from law enforcement agencies and elected leaders, the violence involving young people spiked in the metro area within days of the end of the school year.
And it’s not just Atlanta. Between 2019 and 2021, the number of children and teens killed by bullets increased 50% in the United States, according to a Pew Research Center study.
On Friday, Gwinnett County officials held a press conference, discussing the increased gun violence across the county and other metro-Atlanta areas.
Tyler Lee, a gun safety advocate and rising junior at Peachtree Ridge High School, first led and organized the event last year after 21 people were killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. During the event on Friday, he called for state leaders to enforce red flag laws and extensive background checks to help curb gun violence.
“Gov. Brian Kemp and his leaders in the State House and State Senate are seeing the effects of their relaxed approach to firearms. We can protect second graders and the second amendment at the same time,” Lee said.
Gwinnett County District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gatson attended the conference and also called for changes to the state’s gun laws.
“Our children are dying,” Gatson said. “Our children should not be afraid to go to school, they should not be in a situation where they feel in danger. They should not be ducking under their desks for protection from guns that can be regulated.”
Other officials, such as Lawrenceville City Councilmember Marlene Taylor-Crawford and members from the Gwinnett Board of Education, spoke about how gun violence is also affecting learning and student’s mental health.
Taylor-Crawford, who also works as an elementary school counselor, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the mental health effects of gun violence on kids are evident.
“When a student is fearful, it’s hard for them to concentrate, they might not even want to come to school,” Crawford said.
She said students become fearful when they hear the alarm go off during active shooter drills.
“They know right away, they have to react,” Crawford said.
Lee said he sees the impact of gun violence on families.
“I know that gun violence is an issue that is particularly been affecting young people,” Lee said. “I feel as if it’s something that is ripping families apart, ripping people I know apart.”
Lee has spent much of his time in school hearing about the many school shootings across the country. He is one of millions of students who take part in active shooter drills, something he says should not be normalized.
“We’ll receive a warning message that’ll say lockdown, lockdown, lockdown,” he said.
“You lock the door, you pull the cover over the door, or sometimes you put construction paper over it, so a potential shooter can’t see into it,” Lee said. “We gather against walls, we vacate our desks. And we’re to sit in silence, 30, 35 of us, in a dark classroom waiting for this to pass over.”
Lee said he feels a sense of numbness during the drills.
“I really wish that our leaders would do better at addressing this crisis. Most of them have children, most of their children will be going through this,” Lee said.
The drills take place about twice a year, he said.
Gwinnett County was spared this week from a deadly shooting involving teenagers, but other metro counties reported several.
Shortly before 2:30 a.m. Sunday, 911 callers reported a frantic scene outside Benjamin E. Mays High School in Atlanta. Shots were fired and a 16-year-old girl had been shot twice in the chest.
Bre’Asia Powell was able to speak at first. She unlocked her cellphone so friends could summon help, a family friend later said. Those around her attempted to apply pressure to her wounds, but she had lost a lot of blood. Bre’Asia died less than an hour later at Grady Memorial Hospital, according to police.
A 16-year-old boy was also shot outside the school, but survived, a police report states. The investigation continued Friday and no arrests had been made.
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, who attended Mays High School, said during a news conference he’d spoken to the mothers of both of the teens shot at the gathering.
“We are always heartbroken when anyone loses their life in our city but especially when it’s a young person the day after school lets out,” he said. “So we’re calling on parents, calling on young people and we’re calling on the community to continue to wrap their arms around our youth today.”
By then, another Atlanta-area teenager had been shot to death.
Around 11:35 a.m. Sunday, Cobb County investigators were called to home where they found 15-year-old Charles Marquez Brown had been shot in the face, according to police. The home was located north of the East-West Connector, near Hurt Road Park.
Charles was rushed to Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, where he died several hours later, the police report states.
“I love you, godson, more than words can express,” Holly Lewis posted on Charles’ obituary. “I still don’t understand and can not process you not being here but I want you to know I love you. You will always be my baby.”
Monday night, a 16-year-old girl and 20-year-old man were injured in a Carroll County shooting in a gated community, the sheriff’s office said. At least four suspects are in custody and facing aggravated assault charges, including 17-year-old Christopher Ryan Williams Jr, the sheriff’s office said.
Two days later, gunfire killed a teenager in Douglas County. Sheriff’s deputies responded around 6 p.m. to the Bill Arp community, where they found 17-year-old Brian Brown of Powder Springs, with a gunshot wound. He died at the hospital.
Thursday afternoon, a 1-month-old suffered a finger injury when a shot was fired into a Middleton Road apartment in northwest Atlanta, according to police.