Family remembers carjack victim, ‘a fighter’ until the end

When Shaneku “Lucy” McCurty’s stepfather was teaching her how to play basketball, he didn’t go easy on the slight little girl who aspired to play with the boys.

“I’d push her around, talk smack. I told her this is what you gotta expect,” said Rundy Swanson, who married McCurty’s mother when Shaneku was 4 years old. “But she never backed down.”

Around 1 a.m. on Oct. 23rd, McCurty stopped at a Redan Road gas station in DeKalb County to purchase a lottery ticket. Returning to her car, the 25-year-old barber was confronted by three teenagers attempting to carjack her Pontiac Grand Am, which she had purchased just a few months earlier.

The car was her baby, say friends and family. She saved up to buy it for years, putting long hours and enduring countless bus rides to and from the $5 Barber Shop, where she worked six days a week.

“She’s not the type to let someone come in and take something that’s hers,” said McCurty’s aunt Valerie Bolton, who started calling her Lucy, after Lucille Ball, because of Shaneku’s ever-present smile.

Though just 5-foot-3 and 110 pounds, McCurty didn’t back down.

“I don’t think the little punk could handle it,” said cousin Penyetta Clark, who had gone out for drinks with McCurty just before the shooting. “He was embarrassed to get beat up by a woman.”

Police say, following a brief tussle, 16-year-old Cameron Williams shot McCurty three times. Williams and his alleged accomplices — brothers Demonte and Jermaine Grant, ages 15 and 16 — were indicted Tuesday on a single count of malice murder, as well as two counts apiece of felony murder and aggravated assault. All three will be tried as adults.

Even after taking three shots at close range, McCurty kept on fighting.

“Had a pulse for 20 minutes,” Clark said. “She was tough.”

McCurty’s death has resonated with friends and strangers alike across metro Atlanta. An estimated 800 people attended her funeral, which had to be moved to a bigger site to accommodate the overflow crowd.

“She is just an innocent person who drives up in to a store. [She] gets out, walks in, makes her purchase and comes back to her vehicle,” said DeKalb Public Safety Director Cedric Alexander said. “She offered something to this community, doing good trying to make something good for someone else.”

Shirley Bolton, McCurty’s mother, woke up that morning unaware her only daughter was dead. She learned about it from a local TV newscast, where she spotted the Grand Am. She ran into Lucy’s bedroom at their Stone Mountain home and saw the empty bed. Bolton said she hasn’t been in there since.

She last saw her daughter the afternoon before the shooting. Bolton had told McCurty she was going to the grocery store.

“She left work to come home and help me bring in the groceries,” Bolton said. “That was the kind of person she was. Always giving.”

And family always came first. McCurty was one of 15 cousins, most of whom live in the Atlanta area. She visited her grandmother almost every day, doted on her nieces and spent many a weekend night playing spades or tonk with her uncles and other assorted relatives.

“We always have family meetings, just sit down and talk and assess our dreams, how we’re going to make them happen,” said her uncle, Tony Mains, of Austell.

McCurty talked of owning her own barber shop one day. He had no doubt she would succeed.

“Very smart. If she put her mind to something she’d do it,” Mains said.

Of family and pain

Even as a little girl, McCurty exhibited a fierce competitive streak, her mother recalled. Sports provided an outlet.

She played softball in middle school but found it “too slow” for her taste, said Rundy Swanson, her stepfather. McCurty wanted to play baseball and joined an all-boys league.

It was nothing new to her. Of the 15 cousins, all but two were male.

“Whatever they did, she did,” Swanson said.

The cousins, who related more as siblings, are taking her death especially hard.

“We had that bond couldn’t nobody break,” cousin DeMarcus Swanson posted on his Facebook page. “I would look to my left you was there, I would look to my right you was there. When I was dead ass broke you always looked out for me.

“I know you didn’t want me to cry but the tears won’t stop,” he wrote.

McCurty’s little brother, Dennis Bolton, has come home only a couple of times since his sister’s death, according to their stepfather.

“She was what a big sister should be,” Rundy Swanson said. “She looked after him. Everyone in this family knew she had their back.”

Now, the large family is relying on each other to get through these dark days. But in a cruel irony, that familial togetherness only heightens the void left by McCurty’s death.

“A piece to the puzzle is missing,” said her aunt, Charlotte Manuel, of Marietta. “She was a family-oriented person. Now one of our links is gone. With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, it’s going to be tough.”

The pain spans generations. Her grandmother was so stricken by grief she couldn’t attend McCurty’s funeral. Her nieces, who once asked if she could accompany them on their first day of school, miss the attention and gifts Aunt Lucy lavished upon them.

She also leaves behind a godson, 8-year-old Jashun Smith, who she treated as her own, said Trekena Mains. McCurty even cut the umbilical cord when Jashun was born.

“She started bringing him around when he was still just a little baby,” Mains said. “He’s in the family now.”

Penyetta Clark was the last relative to see Lucy alive.

“I keep thinking she’d still be here if I didn’t make her go out with me,” Clark said. “This has devastated me. This has hurt a lot of people. She was just minding her business. “

Thinking back on her niece’s life, one memory stands out to Valerie Bolton. Lucy was in an AAU mixed basketball league, boys and girls competing on the same court.

“She was getting under the skin of this one boy,” said Bolton, of Decatur. “Finally he just pushed her down to the floor. She just looked up at him and just started laughing.”

She didn’t back down.

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