4 dead, multiple injured during violent weekend in Atlanta

Police officials repeat pleas to ‘resolve conflict without weapons’; mayor calls park shooting ‘alarming and disturbing’

Facing a row of news cameras and microphones Sunday night, Atlanta police Deputy Chief Charles Hampton Jr. once again asked the citizens of Atlanta to resolve their conflicts without guns.

The message was familiar, but the location conflicted with the evening’s grim events. Behind the deputy chief were a recreation center and a ballfield, where hours earlier a friendly game erupted into chaos at Rosa L. Burney Park on Windsor Street.

Six people were shot in an apparent exchange of gunfire after an argument spewed over at the southwest Atlanta park, according to Hampton. Two adults later died at hospitals, and a 6-year-old girl was in critical condition Sunday night and undergoing treatment at a children’s hospital.

Explore2nd victim dies in Atlanta park shooting; child in critical condition

Police did not provide updates on the other victims’ conditions Monday, but an investigator with the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office said at least one was fighting for their life.

The shooting was the deadliest in Atlanta over the weekend, but it was not the only incidence of bloodshed. Atlanta police investigated two other fatal shootings, one at an apartment building in Bankhead and another at a home in the Lakewood neighborhood on the opposite end of the city.

Credit: Ben Hendren for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Credit: Ben Hendren for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“As we’ve said countless times, we are just asking the citizens to just find a way to resolve conflict without weapons,” Hampton said during a news briefing from the park shooting scene. “We are just asking people to step away. We are asking people to let bygones be bygones.”

In recent months, Atlanta police leaders have made the same appeal from outside fast-food restaurants, corner stores and other city parks. On Thursday, an apparent murder-suicide that ended in the Old Fourth Ward’s Central Park prompted a plea by interim Chief Darin Schierbaum to “walk away from the weapons.”

Homicides in Atlanta are up this year over this time last year, but Schierbaum is optimistic the trend will reverse.

ExploreAtlanta’s homicides up for 3rd straight year

“When you look at the homicide trends, they have actually been decreasing since April of this year, and they are on course at some point to actually go negative over this time last year,” the interim chief said last week. “But anger is so hard for this police department to predict.”

The weekend violence brings Atlanta’s running homicide total to 99, compared with 90 on this day last year. While the pace has slowed during the summer months, dropping to eight in July, eight homicides were under investigation the first week of August alone.

According to police, about 40% of homicide cases this year were the result of escalating disputes.

It would appear the police department’s pleas have gone unheard. Over the weekend, 32-year-old Quittavious Wright was found dead of a gunshot wound around 2 p.m. Sunday at the Parkside apartments on Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway. Later that night, another man was killed near the intersection of Wyndham Way and Lakewood Trail, police confirmed. Few details about that shooting were available Monday.

Atlanta police responded to at least four other shootings over the weekend, including an incident in which authorities said an alleged intruder was shot by a resident during a home invasion on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. That gunshot victim was alert when he was taken to a hospital around 5:20 p.m. Sunday, and police have not determined who will be charged.

Credit: Ben Hendren for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Credit: Ben Hendren for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The calls from Rosa L. Burney Park came in around 7 p.m. Sunday. Only two victims, a man and woman, remained at the scene when police arrived, and the rest were taken to hospitals in private vehicles. They included two more women, one man and the 6-year-old girl.

Rashad Rogers, 31, and April Sparks, 33, were killed, according to the medical examiner’s office. It was not clear if any of the victims were related to each other.

Speaking at the Atlanta City Council’s public safety committee meeting Monday, Mayor Andre Dickens called the incident “essentially a mass shooting,” saying it was “alarming and disturbing.”

Standing alongside his top advisers and the police chief, Dickens vowed “if you pull a gun in this town, you are going to jail. If you’re a gang leader, you will be caught and you will be held accountable.”

Investigators are still working to determine what prompted the gunfire at the park, and it was not immediately clear how many people fired shots. Late Monday, police released two surveillance photos of man running with a gun in his hand near a park bench. He is considered a person of interest and is not suspected of a crime. Police are asking for help to identify him.

Hampton said initial reports indicate there were large crowds attending the ballgame and there may be additional witnesses.

Tipsters can call the homicide unit at 404-546-4235 or remain anonymous, and be eligible for rewards of up to $2,000, by contacting Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-8477, texting information to 274637 or visiting the Crime Stoppers website.

— Staff writers Alexis Stevens, J.D. Capelouto and Rosana Hughes contributed to this article.