Mayor Dickens’ open letter to the city: ‘It’s the guns’

Mayor Andre Dickens speaks at a press conference near Northside Hospital Midtown medical office building where five people were shot on Wednesday, May 3, 2023. One person died. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Mayor Andre Dickens speaks at a press conference near Northside Hospital Midtown medical office building where five people were shot on Wednesday, May 3, 2023. One person died. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens is asking for national action on mental health and gun regulation after police arrested a man who allegedly shot five people in a Midtown office building on Wednesday.

Dickens shared his thoughts on Thursday morning in an open letter to the city, writing “we cannot accept mass shootings as normal in our country. We know it does not have to be this way.”

The mayor noted that other nations have challenges with mental health, but they don’t have the same level of gun violence as America.

“It’s the guns,” Dickens wrote.

The mayor also said: “While we respect the rights conveyed by the 2nd Amendment, we also need more actions to protect the rights of our citizens to go about their lives — to go to a doctor’s office, a supermarket, a gas station, their school — without the threat of being gunned down.”

Dickens said the city has made significant investments in police and fire, and in non-traditional community safety activities such as violence interruption and youth engagement programs that he says address root causes of crime.

“Those investments are working,” Dickens said. “Violent crime in Atlanta is significantly down over this time last year. But we need to do more.”

Police said a lone shooter fired a gun in a waiting room of an upper-level office at the Northside Hospital Midtown medical building on West Peachtree Street around noon Wednesday. The shooting left one women dead and four wounded.

The suspect, Deion Patterson, led nearly a dozen law enforcement agencies on an eight-hour chase before he was caught near Cobb County’s Truist Park around 8 p.m.

Law enforcement officers are seen on West Peachtree Street in front of Northside Hospital Midtown medical office building, where five people were shot on Wednesday, May 3, 2023. (Arvin Temkar/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

On Thursday, Dickens thanked the Atlanta Police Department, Cobb County Police Department, the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department and Grady Memorial Hospital for taking action and saving the survivors of the shooting.

Dickens called the level of this violence “tragically too common in America.” There has been nearly 200 reported mass shootings nationwide this year, Dickens said. He also alluded to Atlanta’s previous mass shootings.

In 2021, a lone shooter killed eight people across Atlanta at three separate massage spas.

Georgia Democrats responded in the immediate aftermath of Wednesday’s shooting with widespread cries for increased gun regulations. Georgia’s Republicans were largely silent, though Gov. Brian Kemp thanked the police for their work.

Last year, President Joe Biden signed into law new gun safety measures passed by a bipartisan coalition in Congress. Most Republicans — including all eight GOP members from Georgia — opposed it.

On Thursday, Dickens sought to assure the city that Patterson will stand trial. He said the city will learn more in the coming days about the circumstances of the shooting, citing the ongoing investigation.

“There will be justice in this case. But that doesn’t change the fact that one woman died, and four others were seriously injured,” Dickens said. “It doesn’t change the fact that our city experienced a collective trauma. Families are grieving today, and our community is on edge.

“We will soon all be made aware of how we can appropriately show our love to these families and come together as a community in solidarity.”