A year later, the question remains: Who shot Secoriea Turner?

07/15/2020 - Atlanta, Georgia - Charmaine Turner, center, mother of Secoriea Turner, is surrounded by her sons and SecorieaÕs father, Secoriey Williamson, second from left, as she becomes emotional while reciting a poem during the home-going service for Secoriea at New Calvary Missionary Church in AtlantaÕs Sylvan Hills community, Wednesday, July 15, 2020. On July 4, 8-year-old Secoriea was shot dead by armed civilians who had commandeered a street in AtlantaÕs Peoplestown community. She was one of five individuals who were killed over the Independence Day Weekend in Atlanta. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
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07/15/2020 - Atlanta, Georgia - Charmaine Turner, center, mother of Secoriea Turner, is surrounded by her sons and SecorieaÕs father, Secoriey Williamson, second from left, as she becomes emotional while reciting a poem during the home-going service for Secoriea at New Calvary Missionary Church in AtlantaÕs Sylvan Hills community, Wednesday, July 15, 2020. On July 4, 8-year-old Secoriea was shot dead by armed civilians who had commandeered a street in AtlantaÕs Peoplestown community. She was one of five individuals who were killed over the Independence Day Weekend in Atlanta. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

The 8-year-old died in her mother’s arms on July 4, 2020

A year later, Secoriea Turner’s mother finds it hard to go out, or even to smile.

“She tries, I can tell,” said Secoriea’s aunt, Sha’Coria Turner. “She had to hold her baby, saying, ‘Mommy,’ for the last time, while letting go.”

Secoriea Turner, a buoyant rising third-grader who loved unicorns and dancing, was shot and killed when someone fired at the Jeep she and her mother, Charmaine Turner, were riding in on July 4, 2020. She was 8.

The Jeep had encountered an armed group of strangers near the burned-out Wendy’s where Rayshard Brooks had been killed by a police officer.

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Charmaine Turner with her daughter Secoriea Turner. (Courtesy of Sha'Coria Turner)

Charmaine Turner with her daughter Secoriea Turner. (Courtesy of Sha'Coria Turner)
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Charmaine Turner with her daughter Secoriea Turner. (Courtesy of Sha'Coria Turner)

Police have said as many as four people fired. One arrest has been made. The Atlanta Police Department has declined to answer questions, saying the investigation is ongoing.

Secoriea’s parents have pleaded for witnesses to come forward in tearful news conferences and vigils. They backed a video and a billboard seeking tips. They have also sued the city, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Police Chief Rodney Bryant, accusing all three of negligence.

Protesters had camped at the Wendy’s site, calling for police reforms and for the charred building to be replaced with a community center to honor Brooks. Officials had allowed protesters to stay at the site while they negotiated demands with the city, on condition the road not be blocked. An armed group, denounced by protest leaders who asked them to leave, blocked the road repeatedly.

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July 6, 2020 Atlanta:. Atlanta police and sanitation crews finished removing protesters and their belongings from outside the Wendy’s on Monday July 6, 2020 where Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed by an officer last month. The last concrete barricade was put in place around noon. Some of the protesters milled nearby while a worker from the BP gas station next door pulled boards off the windows. Monday’s cleanup followed a violent holiday weekend that started Saturday night when 8-year-old Secoriea Turner was fatally shot while sitting in a car near the restaurant. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms denounced the violence in an emotional press conference at police headquarters in which she and Turner’s family urged people to come forward with information about the girl’s killers. About 9:30 a.m. Monday, uniformed officers and multiple workers in neon attire tossed flowers and other items from a makeshift memorial outside the Wendy’s into garbage bags. The site has served as ground zero for protests since Brooks was shot in the parking lot following an attempted DUI arrest in the drive-thru line June 12. The restaurant was destroyed during a large protest the next day. Three people have been arrested on arson charges in connection with the incident. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

July 6, 2020 Atlanta:. Atlanta police and sanitation crews finished removing protesters and their belongings from outside the Wendy’s on Monday July 6, 2020 where Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed by an officer last month. The last concrete barricade was put in place around noon. Some of the protesters milled nearby while a worker from the BP gas station next door pulled boards off the windows. Monday’s cleanup followed a violent holiday weekend that started Saturday night when 8-year-old Secoriea Turner was fatally shot while sitting in a car near the restaurant. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms denounced the violence in an emotional press conference at police headquarters in which she and Turner’s family urged people to come forward with information about the girl’s killers. About 9:30 a.m. Monday, uniformed officers and multiple workers in neon attire tossed flowers and other items from a makeshift memorial outside the Wendy’s into garbage bags. The site has served as ground zero for protests since Brooks was shot in the parking lot following an attempted DUI arrest in the drive-thru line June 12. The restaurant was destroyed during a large protest the next day. Three people have been arrested on arson charges in connection with the incident. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM
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July 6, 2020 Atlanta:. Atlanta police and sanitation crews finished removing protesters and their belongings from outside the Wendy’s on Monday July 6, 2020 where Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed by an officer last month. The last concrete barricade was put in place around noon. Some of the protesters milled nearby while a worker from the BP gas station next door pulled boards off the windows. Monday’s cleanup followed a violent holiday weekend that started Saturday night when 8-year-old Secoriea Turner was fatally shot while sitting in a car near the restaurant. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms denounced the violence in an emotional press conference at police headquarters in which she and Turner’s family urged people to come forward with information about the girl’s killers. About 9:30 a.m. Monday, uniformed officers and multiple workers in neon attire tossed flowers and other items from a makeshift memorial outside the Wendy’s into garbage bags. The site has served as ground zero for protests since Brooks was shot in the parking lot following an attempted DUI arrest in the drive-thru line June 12. The restaurant was destroyed during a large protest the next day. Three people have been arrested on arson charges in connection with the incident. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Secoriea’s family and their attorneys say the city should’ve taken action to make the site safer.

“We are forced to live through this day by day,” Turner said after the announcement of the suit. “We deserve justice. Someone needs to be held accountable.”

Secoriea’s parents, through the Davis Bozeman law firm, declined to comment this week.

ExploreJune 2021: Family of 8-year-old Secoriea Turner sues city, mayor, police chief in child’s death
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Secoriey Williamson with his daughter Secoriea Turner. (Courtesy of Sha'Coria Turner)

Credit: Handout photo

Secoriey Williamson with his daughter Secoriea Turner. (Courtesy of Sha'Coria Turner)
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Secoriey Williamson with his daughter Secoriea Turner. (Courtesy of Sha'Coria Turner)

Credit: Handout photo

Credit: Handout photo

“My soul hurts so bad — so bad,” Sha’Coria Turner said. “I feel like they don’t understand what they took away.”

Charmaine Turner has vowed to go to every court hearing.

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200715-Atlanta-Julian Conley, who is accused of felony murder in the shooting death of 8-year-old Secoriea Turner, turns himself in to the Atlanta Police Department with his attorney Jackie Patterson on Wednesday afternoon July 15, 2020. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

200715-Atlanta-Julian Conley, who is accused of felony murder in the shooting death of 8-year-old Secoriea Turner, turns himself in to the Atlanta Police Department with his attorney Jackie Patterson on Wednesday afternoon July 15, 2020. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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200715-Atlanta-Julian Conley, who is accused of felony murder in the shooting death of 8-year-old Secoriea Turner, turns himself in to the Atlanta Police Department with his attorney Jackie Patterson on Wednesday afternoon July 15, 2020. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Julian Conley, 20, is accused of aggravated assault and felony murder in the child’s death. While turning himself in back in September, Conley said he’d only witnessed the shooting. “At the end of the day, I had nothing to do with it,” Conley told Channel 2 Action News.

Defense attorney Jackie Patterson said at the time Conley had told him that a man driving the SUV had gone through the barricade and hit a man carrying a rifle.

“And when that person fell to the ground, the person got up and started firing at that vehicle,” Patterson told the news station.

Charmaine Turner has said the shooters opened fire before they could turn around.

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Conley had a court hearing on June 22, but it was postponed after Patterson said his client could no longer afford his services. Conley will be assigned a court-appointed attorney. The hearing is now set for July 13.

Police and court records show Conley and another man are charged with assault, accused of pointing AR-15 style rifles at a man near the Wendy’s on the night Secoriea was shot. “This incident occurred within minutes of when Secoriea Turner was murdered,” an officer wrote in a police report.

Conley’s co-defendant faces no charges in Secoriea’s case.

The Atlanta Police Department investigated 157 homicides in 2020, the most in more than two decades. APD data shows investigators cleared — by arrest or finding reason not to prosecute, such as self-defense — 64% of them. That’s in line with the national average. In 2021, the rate is 50 percent, according to APD data released Wednesday. Detectives have issued warrants in 12 cases.

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APD documents appeared to consider a homicide cleared if one suspect had been arrested, but many result in multiple arrests. Secoriea’s case is listed as cleared even though police continue seeking suspects.

Similar is the case with the shooting deaths of Erica Robinson, 32, and Joshua Ingram, 20. They were killed a few hours after Secoriea in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood.

Police have said a big group had gathered on Auburn Avenue to watch fireworks when a man started doing driving tricks in his blue Chevrolet Camaro. The man, identified by police as De’Andre Brown, 26, lost control of the car, striking two parked vehicles and a pedestrian, police said in September 2020.

A fight broke out, and Brown aimed a gun at someone, police said. Several other people drew guns and started shooting. In all, 15 people were shot. Brown faces murder charges, but police have said they weren’t sure whether he fired the fatal shots and didn’t respond when asked if other arrests were expected.

Like Secoriea, Robinson and Ingram left aching voids when they died.

During Robinson’s funeral service, photos of her smiling flanked a casket topped with a spray of lemon-yellow flowers. Loved ones shared memories of Robinson, who attended Atlanta’s Frederick Douglass High and Albany State University.

Ingram was a 6-foot-6 Georgia State University student. When his mother, Sherlyn Ingram, walked out of Grady Memorial Hospital after he died, she had to stop herself from pouring out her grief to strangers.

She wanted to tell them: “I just lost my baby.”

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