7-year-old girl fatally shot during family gathering near Old Fourth Ward

Nearly 2 dozen young children and teens have died so far this year by gun violence in metro Atlanta

A 7-year-old girl was fatally shot during an argument at a family gathering in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood Saturday night, according to police.

Her death adds to a grim toll in metro Atlanta in which nearly two dozen young children and teens have died so far this year by gun violence.

On Saturday, officers were called to an apartment in the Camden Vantage Apartments complex along Jackson Street around 10:15 p.m., Atlanta police Deputy Chief Charles Hampton Jr. told reporters from the scene. When they got there, they found the child with at least one gunshot wound. She did not survive.

“Any death is tragic, but when there’s a child involved, it really hits home,” Hampton said.

The deputy chief said it appears a domestic dispute during the gathering escalated into an exchange of gunfire. He could not say whether investigators believe the girl was the intended target, but the child’s father believes she was hit by a stray bullet.

Her father identified the girl as Ava Phillips, Channel 2 Action News reported.

Jonathan Phillips told the news station Ava and her brother were visiting their mother at Camden Vantage when there was some type of disagreement, and “one thing led to another.” It was the worst phone call he’s ever received, he said, learning his youngest child was gone.

“She was a good girl,” Phillips told Channel 2 in an exclusive interview. “Man, she didn’t deserve this. It’s just this violence.”

No suspects have been publicly identified, but Hampton said one man left the scene following the shooting, and investigators would like to speak with him to determine to what extent he may have been involved.

“To have a completed investigation, we would like to talk to all individuals that were present,” Hampton said.

As of Sunday, at least 42 children under the age of 18 have been shot in metro Atlanta this year, according to data maintained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That number includes children unintentionally shot by themselves or another child, those who were intentionally shot and those who were caught in the crossfire.

ExploreKids, teens across metro Atlanta among 2022 shooting victims

Police have not released many details in most cases, and other incidents may have not been reported to the public at all by police. It is difficult to determine exactly how many children have been shot and the nature of each case.

But based on the limited information that has been made public, 21 of the 42 children have died.

The most recent incident involved a 17-year-old, Dimitri Hayes, who was fatally shot just five days earlier — allegedly by his brother, Xavier Hayes, according to police. The brother, also 17, was charged with felony murder and aggravated assault.

Earlier this month, when a 6-year-old was critically wounded when six people were shot at a southwest Atlanta park, Hampton made a familiar plea when speaking to the media and public: “As we’ve said countless times, we are just asking the citizens to just find a way to resolve conflict without weapons. We are just asking people to step away.”

— Staff writer Chelsea Prince contributed to this article.