After 12-year-old’s shooting death, officials urge help to fight gun violence

Victim was among 6 shot near Atlantic Station on Saturday night
Atlanta police Chief Darin Schierbaum, joined by Mayor Andre Dickens (right), discusses a shooting that occurred Saturday night in which a 12-year-old was killed.

Credit: Atlanta Police Department

Credit: Atlanta Police Department

Atlanta police Chief Darin Schierbaum, joined by Mayor Andre Dickens (right), discusses a shooting that occurred Saturday night in which a 12-year-old was killed.

Atlanta officials on Sunday called on parents and “the village” to help reduce gun violence among school-age youths after a 12-year-old boy died when he was shot near Atlantic Station the night before.

Five others were injured in the shooting that broke out shortly after 8 p.m. Saturday, police said. One of them remained in critical condition Sunday. Police did not release the age of that person, but they confirmed all victims were under the age of 18.

The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the 12-year-old victim as Zyion Charles.

In a GoFundMe campaign, his mother said that she, his twin sister and three other siblings are left to grieve his death.

The Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office identified the fatal victim of a shooting near Atlantic Station on Saturday night as 12-year-old Zyion Charles.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

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Credit: Channel 2 Action News

The shooting happened after a group of young people was escorted off Atlantic Station property by security and off-duty Atlanta officers for unruly behavior and violating the retail area’s curfew, Lt. Germaine Dearlove, Atlanta police homicide commander, said late Saturday.

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.

“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 Sunday morning at a news conference, where he was joined by police Chief Darin Schierbaum and Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring.

Atlanta police were quick to arrive at the scene, as 26 off-duty officers were working an extra job as security detail at the shopping center, officials said. An additional 10 security guards also had been working as part of safety efforts there.

An Atlanta police officer secures the scene after a shooting at the 17th Street bridge near Atlantic Station left one person dead and several injured Saturday night.

Credit: Ben Hendren

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Credit: Ben Hendren

Schierbaum said the groups knew each other and had a conflict earlier this month that came to a head when they ran into each other that night.

“So again, we see guns in the hands of angry individuals leading to a tragic outcome,” Schierbaum said, adding that some individuals who were involved are known to Atlanta police investigators. He did not clarify in what capacity police have become familiar with those involved, or whether those known to them were suspects.

Police asked anyone who was in the area Saturday night to submit photos or videos of the incident, including cellphone, doorbell or vehicle dash camera footage. They did not release any information about whether they have identified any suspects.

Dickens said he spoke with the parents of each of the victims, who he said were devastated but hadn’t known where their children were Saturday night or that Atlantic Station had a curfew for minors.

“It’s important to know where your child is at all times,” he said, noting that parents should use cellphones to track their children’s whereabouts either through apps or their phone company.

“I’m asking parents right now that you use your phones ... to know where your youth are at all times ... and to make sure that when they’re visiting friends, that their friends’ parents also know where their kids are at all times,” Dickens said. “This is a group project. The entire village has to chip in on this. To reduce the gun violence, to reduce the issues that are plaguing our communities, it’s going to take everyone.”

Schierbaum echoed Dickens’ words and stressed that the Atlantic Station area, where he lives, is safe. His officers are on the ground patrolling and working extra jobs as security.

“But what the Atlanta Police Department can’t do, nor Atlantic Station can’t do, is be parents,” he said. “This is a team effort. Everyone has an involvement for keeping this the best city that we know Atlanta to be. So we ask, please know where your children are ... please exercise your influence as an adult in someone’s life.”

Herring asked parents to communicate with school officials when their child needs extra support in order to try to get ahead of issues that may lead to violence.

“As we close out this holiday week and return to what will be the last few weeks of the school year, we maintain our commitment to not only work together, but to provide the resources that are needed for families in times and issues like this,” the APS superintendent said.

In a statement, Atlantic Station said it is “helping law enforcement in every way possible” but distanced itself from the incident, as it did not occur on its property. However, it is still increasing security measures, including doubling the number of law enforcement officers for the foreseeable future in order to discourage group gatherings and enforcing the curfew.

Saturday’s deadly incident, which came just two days after Thanksgiving and amid the peak holiday shopping season, is the latest in a string of shootings at or near Atlantic Station this year. The property also includes a residential area and is currently the site of a Cirque du Soleil show and an ice skating rink.

In October, two women were shot 10 days apart in similar incidents after being caught in the crossfire between feuding groups. And in January, another woman was shot, again after being caught between groups that were fighting.