Young shooting victim leaves a grieving twin just weeks before Christmas

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Zyion Charles loved his music and his family, especially his twin sister. He was excited about the gift he’d been promised for Christmas: a new iPhone. He was 12.

On Monday, the child’s family struggled to understand how the seventh-grader could have been killed while hanging out with friends. Relatives including Zyion’s twin sister spoke during a Sunday night vigil and balloon release, Channel 2 Action News reported.

“It was a whole. And now it’s a half,” Zyrhia Charles said. “I don’t have him no more.”

Editor's note: The AJC is committed to producing solutions-based journalism aimed at curbing youth violence in addition to promoting the work of our reporting partners on the topic. Today, Channel 2 Action News is planning to devote a half-hour of news programming, from 6:30-7 p.m., to possible solutions. Channel 2 reporters have spoken to sociologists and psychologists about what could be driving kids to violence and have spoken to community activists about intervention.

Zyion was caught in gunfire that ended his life on the 17th Street bridge Saturday night.

“Whoever was shooting, they shot him,” Sandra Durden, the boy’s grandmother, said during the vigil. “Zyion did not have a gun, period. They said Zyion was shot by a stray bullet.”

Zyion became the fifth youngest homicide victim this year in metro Atlanta. At least 60 children and teenagers have been the victims of gun violence in 2022; half of the incidents were fatal. Among the youngest victims was a 6-month-old caught in crossfire outside a store on Anderson Avenue in Atlanta in January. Two suspects, one accused of firing and the other accused of driving the SUV the shooter was in, were arrested within days of the infant’s shooting death.

The shooting that killed Zyion, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, also left five others injured. It remained under investigation on Monday. Authorities have said a group of children and teenagers was escorted off the Atlantic Station property Saturday night for unruly behavior and for violating the local curfew. Moments later, a dispute between two groups led to gunfire.

Zyion died at the scene, according to police. All five of the injured were under 18, city leaders said Sunday. One of those victims was in critical condition.

“When a 12-year-old dies in our city — on our city streets ... the whole village has a responsibility, and the whole village is impacted,” Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said at a Sunday morning news conference, where he was joined by Police Chief Darin Schierbaum and Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring.

The night of the shooting, a team of 36 officers and security guards, including off-duty Atlanta police officers, was patrolling Atlanta Station, according to a spokeswoman for the retail and residential district.

Police asked anyone who was in the area Saturday night to submit photos or videos, including cellphone, doorbell or vehicle dash camera footage, that could help with the investigation.

Dickens said he spoke with the parents of each of the victims, who he said hadn’t known where their children were Saturday night or that Atlantic Station had a curfew for minors. In January, a 3 p.m. curfew was put in place for Atlantic Station, requiring all minors to be accompanied by an adult after that time.

A curfew for minors had already been in place at Atlantic Station for years. Shootings and a rise in crime in the area prompted the curfew to be moved back to 3 p.m., rather than 6 p.m.

In recent weeks, Atlantic Station has been the site of other shootings, though none are believed to be related.

On Oct. 18, a 30-year-old woman, who asked not to be named fearing for her safety, was shot three times while inside her SUV, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. The woman believes people in two other cars were shooting at each other shortly before midnight and she was caught in the crossfire. Investigators found several shell casings at the scene, at the intersection of 17th and State streets.

“I was just in the middle,” the woman said. “I’m just lucky I was only hit three times.”

Ten days before the 30-year-old woman was shot in her SUV at Atlantic Station, another woman was shot in the same area, according to police.

On Oct. 8, that woman told investigators she had just left the Bowlero bowling alley when she heard gunshots, an incident report states. She ran inside the Hobnob Tavern on 18th Street, she told officers. Inside the restaurant, she realized she had been shot in the foot.

On Nov. 28, 2020, the Saturday after Thanksgiving that year, a massive brawl involving scores of teenagers at Atlantic Station ended with one beaten and punched until he lost consciousness, police said at the time. When he fell to the ground, another teen repeatedly stomped on his head, police 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, the AJC previously reported.

In addition to his twin, Zyion is survived by three other siblings, his mother posted on a GoFundMe page to assist with funeral costs.

“If you could donate anything I’m thankful and grateful,” Deerica Charles posted.