Weekend shootings in Atlanta leave 2 dead, including a 15-year-old

Credit: WSBTV Videos

At least 20 people shot, 4 killed in Atlanta since Thursday night

Credit: WSBTV Videos

Atlanta’s interim police chief insists new approach is working

The Atlanta Police Department struck a plaintive tone Monday after a string of weekend shootings left a 15-year-old girl and 22-year-old man dead and several others injured.

“We continue to be shocked at the number of people who are willing to take a life, abandon their family, risk going to prison and put people in harm’s way by using guns to solve disagreements,” the department said in a statement Monday. “We encourage people to agree to disagree and to walk away from escalating arguments. We encourage people to think before they reach for a gun.”

The weekend’s fatal shootings brought to 44 the number of homicides Atlanta police have investigated this year, crime data show. Shootings have increased by more than 50 percent and homicides are up roughly 60 percent from this time in 2020, a historically deadly one in Atlanta. Authorities investigated 157 homicides last year, the most in more than two decades.

Diamond Johnson, 15, shot Saturday night near a shopping center across the street from Maynard Jackson High School, was the fourth teen killed in Atlanta this year, crime data show.

Atlanta police are seeking information in the weekend shooting death of 15-year-old Diamond Johnson.
Atlanta police are seeking information in the weekend shooting death of 15-year-old Diamond Johnson.

Credit: Atlanta Police Department

Credit: Atlanta Police Department

Christian Romero, 14, was among Diamond’s friends who visited a memorial of teddy bears and flowers at the site of her death on Monday. Diamond was “fun and energetic,” someone people wanted to be around, said Christian, a Maynard Jackson High School freshman.

The Atlanta school system did not comment, citing student privacy.

Atlanta Police spokesman Steve Avery said the fatal shooting stemmed from a fight.

“After the fight, other people, including adults, came to the location, and the confrontation continued, eventually leading to gunfire,” Avery said.

Two other teens injured by gunfire were taken to a local hospital in stable condition. Diamond died at the scene, according to Avery. Investigators have released photos of three vehicles believed to be connected to the shooting and have asked anyone with information about the vehicles or their drivers to come forward.

Investigators are looking to identify the drivers of three vehicles believed to be connected to the shooting.
Investigators are looking to identify the drivers of three vehicles believed to be connected to the shooting.

Credit: Atlanta Police Department

Credit: Atlanta Police Department

Johnson’s killing follows those of other young people in the past year. Secoriea Turner, 8, was shot to death on Independence Day 2020 on University Avenue. Kennedy Maxie, 7, was fatally shot a few days before Christmas 2020 near Phipps Plaza. Jalanni Pless, 18, was was gunned down while selling water bottles to passing motorists in Midtown in June 2020.

Interim Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant was dispirited by the deadly weekend but says the department’s new approach to fighting crime, developed with a consulting firm brought in by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, is working.

“We started (last) week in a good space,” Bryant said Monday. “We thought that all the strategies and efforts that we had and plans that we had in place were working. And then Thursday we started to see, as the weather improved, we started to see increases in violence.”

The trajectory of crime is headed down, Bryant said.

“We are actually only 1 percent up where we were on a normal year which is in 2019,” said Bryant, referring to overall crime, which includes burglaries, robberies and aggravated assaults.

It’s an argument that rings hollow to some, including Bottoms’ predecessor.

“The level of crime and violence is just at unacceptable levels and it’s fracturing our city in a way that I haven’t seen in my lifetime,” former Mayor Kasim Reed said during an interview last week on The Frank Ski Show on KISS 104.1 FM. When he left office, Reed said, “crime was at its lowest level in 40 years. The city of Atlanta was safer than it had been in a generation.”

Both the current mayor and the interim chief have said the coronavirus pandemic has contributed to crime.

“Atlanta will get to the other side of this COVID crime wave,” Bottoms said in her recent State of the City address.

Reed never named names during last week’s interview and said he wasn’t out to attack anyone, but said the city’s crime problem was “not COVID-driven.”

Bryant, who’s held the interim title for nearly 11 months, expressed confidence that the increase in violent crimes will flatten as the city continues its return to pre-coronavirus normalcy.

“We believe as many cities begin to open back up people aren’t running into the city of Atlanta the way that they were previously we’ll start to see those numbers slow down,” he said.

But the violence remains dizzying. Six shootings happened in six hours this past weekend.

At 7:15 p.m. Saturday, police were called to the 300 block of Delevan Street where they found a 41-year-old man with a gunshot wound, Avery said.

A child was found nearby with a minor injury and another man was found with multiple gunshot wounds, police said. The child was treated at the scene, and both men were taken to a hospital.

Diamond Johnson was shot just before 10 p.m. Saturday Within 30 minutes, officers responded to another shooting, on Thomasville Boulevard in southeast Atlanta. That victim, a 33-year-old woman, was taken to the hospital in stable condition, police said.

Investigators learned the woman’s son had been involved in a fight with another child. Then the adults became involved, according to police.

Not even an hour would pass before the next Saturday night shooting, this time at Atlantic Station. Officers found a 31-year-old man, identified by police as Keith Walker, shot once outside the Yard House restaurant. A woman told police Walker was assaulting her when bystanders came to help, and she heard a gunshot wound, police told Channel 2 Action News.

Witnesses did not see who fired the shots, the news station reported. Walker was arrested on a charge of battery and taken to a hospital for treatment.

The second fatal shooting would come 40 minutes after midnight, at Artisans Bar and Gallery on Peachtree Street. Two men were shot following an argument that began inside the club and spilled outside, according to Avery. A 20-year-old was hospitalized in stable condition. The unidentified 22-year-old died at the hospital from his wounds.

Twenty minutes later, a 21-year-old, caught in the middle of a domestic dispute between his sister and husband at their home on Elizabeth Lane, was found shot, investigators said. Police discovered him in the 2300 block of Cheshire Bridge Road. He was taken to a hospital in stable condition.

Bryant said the weekend’s shootings were not random.

“Most of the violence we saw, these were people that had some type of involvement with each other,” he said. “A number of the incidences were either domestic-related or people knowing one another.”

Friends and neighbors left flowers and plush toys at a memorial for 15-year-old Diamond Johnson, who was fatally shot near an Atlanta shopping plaza.
Friends and neighbors left flowers and plush toys at a memorial for 15-year-old Diamond Johnson, who was fatally shot near an Atlanta shopping plaza.

Credit: JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

Credit: JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

For now, Diamond’s loved ones are left to plan a funeral at a time many teens are reveling in prom festivities or getting ready for summer vacation. A GoFundMe page has been set up for those who wish to help pay for services.

At Diamond’s memorial site, 14-year-old Marionna Clifton tried to make sense of the senseless.

“I just feel like it’s sad,” Marionna said. “It’s just a crazy world.”

ATLANTA CRIME, BY THE NUMBERS:

2021 homicides: 44, up 60 percent from this date in 2020. Shootings are up 50 percent from this time last year.

2020 homicides: 157, the most in more than two decades

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