Town Center mall the site of latest shooting at metro Atlanta shopping centers

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

Some of metro Atlanta’s busiest retail spots have become crime scenes. Most recently, Cobb County’s Town Center was evacuated while officers investigated an armed robbery and shooting at a jewelry store.

Thursday’s shooting came days after a 15-year-old girl was killed in a shooting at the Glenwood Park shopping plaza over the weekend. Numerous other shootings left a 22-year-old man dead and others injured.

“This past weekend, six incidents of gun violence left multiple people injured including a 15-year-old female who sadly lost her life,” the Atlanta Police Department said in a statement. “When these violent crimes occur, people look to law enforcement for answers. What many do not consider is that when people decide to resort to gun violence to resolve personal issues, this is not just a policing issue. These incidents involve people making poor decisions when resolving conflict. Police respond after getting the call that someone has been shot. We pick up the pieces and the investigation after the fact. People make anger-induced decisions about conflict resolution options well before we arrive on the scene.”

Lenox Square, in the heart of Buckhead, has been the site of numerous shooting incidents this year. The Atlanta Police Department has a mini-precinct inside the mall, which has increased security in recent months. Arrests have been made in most of the shootings, including March 2020 gunfire that killed a Tennessee man.

A look at past shopping center violence:

Atlanta police are investigating after a fight inside Lenox Square escalated into a shooting that sent a man to the hospital. Credit: Channel 2 Action News
Atlanta police are investigating after a fight inside Lenox Square escalated into a shooting that sent a man to the hospital. Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Jan. 18, 2020: An APD sergeant was alerted to an armed robbery in progress outside the Lenox food court. The sergeant responded and discovered one man holding another at gunpoint and ordered the armed man to drop the weapon. When he refused, the sergeant fired shots, striking the man, Atlanta Police Deputy Chief Jeff Glazier said at the time.

The GBI investigated and determined the robbery “victim” had himself been involved in a crime. Two men were arrested and charged within hours, according to the GBI.

Feb. 10, 2020:: A man in his late 40s went to the Lenox mall’s food court “to conduct some type of transaction,” according to an Atlanta police incident report. When the victim and suspect went to the parking lot, they met with a friend of the victim’s near a vehicle.

ExplorePolice increasing patrols at Lenox Square after latest shooting

The victim, who was shot near his ribs, was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital in stable condition. Two suspects were later charged in the case. Shakeria King, 21, was arrested Feb. 20 in Dublin and in March, the Georgia State Patrol arrested Tyreese Brown, 23, in Monroe County.

March 8, 2020: A dispute over a parking space ended in gunfire in the Lenox parking lot, near the entrance to The Cheesecake Factory.

“The victim and suspects separated and entered the mall, but later the victim and suspects returned to the parking lot and the dispute continued,” Officer Steve Avery said in an emailed statement after the shooting.

That’s when one suspect pulled out a gun and shot Thuan Nguyen, 31, in the head. Nguyen, who lived in Tennessee, died at the scene.

Four days after the incident, Ricky James Lafargue was charged with Nguyen’s murder. But he eluded capture until November when he was arrested in New York.

Oct. 16: A man being robbed at the cash register inside Neiman Marcus at Lenox Square pulled a gun and fired shots, according to Atlanta police.

Then, the man helped identify two of the people who tried to rob him, according to Officer TaSheena Brown. That’s when investigators realized the robbery victim was wanted for a prior crime.

Three people, including the alleged victim, were arrested and charged after the incident.

Shots were fired Friday afternoon inside the Neiman Marcus store at Lenox Square, according to Atlanta police.
Shots were fired Friday afternoon inside the Neiman Marcus store at Lenox Square, according to Atlanta police.

Credit: NewsChopper 2

Credit: NewsChopper 2

Nov. 20: Investigators believe a fight inside the newly opened Apple store inside Lenox Square escalated to gunfire, sending one man to the hospital.

Officers responded to a person shot call and found a man with a gunshot wound to his buttocks inside the store around 3 p.m. The store had just opened after relocating from another location within the mall.

Bullets from the shooting went as far as shattering the window of a MARTA bus stop across the shopping plaza’s parking lot. Investigators are searching for suspects.

Nov. 28: A massive brawl broke out at Atlantic Station, where about 300 teens were gathered near the bowling alley. When officers tried to disperse the clusters of teens, several “became defiant and more disorderly, engaging in more fistfights,” the Atlanta police report said.

One teen was beaten and punched until he lost consciousness, police confirmed. When he fell to the ground, another teen repeatedly stomped on his head, the report said.

A 15-year-old who police identified as the primary aggressor was detained and charged with aggravated assault. He was not named due to his age.

Dec. 5: Shoppers reported hearing a gunshot inside the Neiman Marcus store at Lenox Square around 6 p.m., according to Atlanta police. Investigators now say the incident was an accident and they don’t believe anyone was struck.

It was initially believed there may have been a dispute that led to the shooting. But police later said a man was walking through the store and adjusting his pants when the firearm he had in his waistband discharged, according to Sgt. John Chafee. No one was injured by the bullet.

Dec. 19: A fight between two women led to a shooting at Arbor Place mall, Douglasville police said. Nobody was struck by the gunfire, but at least one person was injured after falling while running away, Douglasville police Maj. J.R. Davidson said. No one was in custody hours after the incident.

Kennedy Maxie
Kennedy Maxie

Dec. 21: Kennedy Maxie had been shopping with her mother and aunt and was riding in the car in near Phipps Plaza when she was shot. The 7-year-old died five days later. Kennedy’s aunt told detectives she heard the gunfire while driving along Peachtree Road near Phipps. Moments later, she realized Kennedy had been struck and drove straight to the hospital, where the little girl was rushed into surgery. In January, a Virginia man was arrested and charged with Kennedy’s murder.

March 23: A shootout between two cars in a parking lot outside of Cumberland Mall and resulted in four people being injured, including a 6-year-old. Three teenagers who were involved in the exchange of gunfire were also injured and later arrested, police said.

Karanji Reese, 18, Jokava Harris, 19, and Desean Powell, 19, are all facing drug and weapons charges. Harris is also facing one count of reckless conduct after police said he fired a gun in the parking lot.

May 1: Investigators believe an argument escalated to gunfire at a southeast Atlanta shopping plaza Saturday night. Three teenagers were shot, killing a 15-year-old girl, police said.

Around 10 p.m., a 911 caller reported that the three had been shot near a Waffle House at the Glenwood Park shopping plaza. The other teens who were shot were stable when they were taken to a hospital, but the 15-year-old, Diamond Johnson, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police.

May 6: Cobb County police were called to Town Center mall about 3:20 p.m. After an initial investigation, Cobb police determined a jewelry store was robbed by three masked suspects, who fled the scene before officers arrived.

Shots were fired inside the mall, backing up what several witnesses said they heard. A store employee suffered a non-life-threatening injury, police confirmed, but it’s not clear if that person was shot.

The 2020 shootings followed a grim end to 2019:

Dec. 14, 2019: A fight at the Cumberland Mall food court led to gunfire, according to Cobb County police. And that sent holiday shoppers scrambling into what some described as pandemonium.

An 18-year-old was shot in the neck and survived the injuries. Two suspects were later arrested and charged in the shooting.

Zaire Dhanoolal was charged with two counts of aggravated assault and Joweer Ponce was charged with reckless conduct and carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.

Dec. 21, 2019: A Lenox Macy’s employee was shot in the stomach during an attempted carjacking in the mall’s parking deck. Carolyn Gilbert had taken a second job at the mall to help with her finances. Gilbert survived the shooting but was traumatized.

“To be robbed like this? I could have died. I could have died,” Gilbert told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’m an aunt and godmother. I could have died, and that’s something I will have to live with the rest of my life.”

Two suspects were both arrested and charged with aggravated assault and armed robbery.

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