The suspect, 40-year-old Andre Longmore, lived with his mother in the Hampton neighborhood rocked by gunfire Saturday morning. For reasons unknown, Longmore shot four of his neighbors before leaving the area in one of the victims’ cars.
A massive manhunt was launched to find Longmore, but that ended Sunday when he was shot and killed after shooting three officers in Clayton County, investigators said. It was the 52nd shooting involving officers this year in Georgia, the GBI said.
Hampton police identified the victims as Scott Leavitt, 67; his wife, Shirley Leavitt, 66; Steve Blizzard, 65; and Ronald Jeffers, 66. The married couple and Blizzard all lived on Dogwood Lakes Drive, while Jeffers lived on Dogwood Ridge Drive.
Longmore was a former U.S. Army sergeant who had deployed to Afghanistan during his service from August 2000 to May 2006, an Army spokesperson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He served as an automated logistical specialist and won numerous awards, including the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal and National Defense Service Medal, among others.
Longmore’s mother, Lorna Dennis, told Channel 2 Action News her son had struggled with his mental health for the better part of a decade. Longmore sought treatment in a Veterans Affairs hospital after a mental breakdown in 2014 and was in the hospital for 10 days, Dennis said.
“And after he came out, he wasn’t the same again,” she said. “He just kept deteriorating until now.”
Gregory Kendall, a spokesperson with the Atlanta VA Medical Center, said they were unable to share additional details at this time.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy, and our thoughts are with those affected by this devastating loss,” he said in a statement. “... The Atlanta VAHCS will continue to support local authorities as the investigation continues.”
It was the second time in recent months that a veteran’s mental illness was mentioned in connection with a mass shooting. On May 3, Deion Patterson allegedly opened fire in a Midtown medical office, killing one woman and injuring four others before leading investigators on a manhunt for about eight hours. Patterson’s mother later said her son was having a “mental break.”
Patterson, who was discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard in January, wanted to be prescribed the anxiety medication Ativan, his mother said in an interview with The Associated Press. But his VA medical team declined to give it to him, fearing he could become addicted, according to the report.
In recent years, government officials have brought increased pressure to improve mental health services for military veterans in Georgia and across the nation. But veterans and advocates say the basic systems in place to treat the mental health of thousands of veterans in Georgia are broken.
It was the families and friends of those killed in Hampton who were left to pick up the pieces. On Monday, they remembered those whose lives were cut short. Some families requested privacy.
Steve Blizzard was a family man and a skilled locksmith, his former metro Atlanta coworker Randy Slape said.
”His ability to do lock manipulation on high security was just unsurpassed,” Slape told the AJC on Monday. “He was just that knowledgeable about some of the things that most people, most standard locksmiths, wouldn’t even grasp as to how to do.”
Blizzard worked as an installation technician at Security Resources Inc. during the early 2000s and worked with Slape. Blizzard previously worked for Delta Air Lines and served in the military before he moved to Henry County to continue his locksmith career.
Slape was stunned once he learned of his death Monday morning.
”The whole scenario of how it happened caught me off guard,” Slape added. “I can just imagine that he was planning on doing something with his grandkids and being a grandpa.”
Another victim, Jeffers had a warm smile and contagious laugh and was a member of Pinecrest Baptist Church. He also volunteered at Medical Missions Outreach, whose staff members learned of his death upon returning from a recent mission trip to Bolivia, the group wrote on Facebook.
”We stood there in shock and tears, staring at boxes and boxes of eyeglasses he had undoubtedly prepared with care to go to the field,” said the group, which provides medical supplies to those in need along with religious messages. “All over the city of Santa Cruz this morning, there are people seeing clearly for the first time in a long time because of Ron’s generosity and compassion.”
Both Missions Outreach and Pinecrest Baptist declined to comment Monday.
The Leavitt family also requested privacy. But in a Facebook post, their niece, Erin Leavitt, wrote that the couple’s love continued to shine bright. The husband and wife, ages 67 and 66, grew up together in Massachusetts and moved to Georgia later in life, eventually finding a home with their daughter Jessica in Hampton over the past few years, she said.
Jessica and her children were at the residence during the attack Saturday morning when Shirley alerted them, according to Erin Leavitt’s post.
”She and the girls survived,” Leavitt said. “Sadly my aunt did not.”
Erin Leavitt said she has fond memories of the couple and previous family vacations and visits.
”My family is obviously devastated at this tragic loss,” she added. “It’s so sad and incredible to believe this has happened to them.”
A vigil was planned Monday evening to honor the four killed.
— Staff writers Katherine Landergan and Jeremy Redmon contributed to this article.
WHERE VETERANS CAN SEEK HELP
· Veterans who want to reach the Atlanta VA Health Care System directly should call (404) 329-2222. For veterans in crisis and seeking immediate help, the VA instructed veterans to call the number 9-8-8, which is a national mental health hotline, and then dial 1 for specific help. Callers do not need to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to connect: www.veteranscrisisline.net/.
· Emory Healthcare Veterans Program is a two-week intensive program for veterans, treating a number of illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders. The services are free for veterans and include travel, lodging and meals. Learn more here: www.emoryhealthcare.org/centers-programs/veterans-program.
· The Warrior Alliance is a veterans organization that is affiliated with America’s Warrior Partnership. Number: (404) 210-1776; email: email@example.com.
· The Cherokee County Homeless Veterans Program serves veterans in that county by providing help with food, limited housing, clothing and other support. Learn more here: www.cherokeehomelessveterans.com.
· Shepherd Center’s SHARE Military Initiative provides rehabilitation for military veterans, service members and first responders. The program is free and covers traumatic brain injuries and mental health concerns. Readers can contact SHARE at 404-603-4314 or by email at SHAREadmissions@shepherd.org. Or, they can learn more at shepherd.org/share.
— Katherine Landergan