Grief, recovery and a push for change one year after Midtown Atlanta shooting spree

Angela Cooper embraces Jamese Nathan, who works at the Northside Hospital Midtown medical office building where five people were shot on Wednesday, May 3, 2023. One person died. (Arvin Temkar /



Angela Cooper embraces Jamese Nathan, who works at the Northside Hospital Midtown medical office building where five people were shot on Wednesday, May 3, 2023. One person died. (Arvin Temkar /

Amy St. Pierre rode her bike to a doctor’s appointment, and once inside texted a friend to wish her a happy birthday.

Alesha Hollinger was at the same building for her job in pharmaceuticals and had just stepped off the elevator.

Moments later, St. Pierre was shot to death by a man investigators say then shot four other women inside the Northside Medical Building. Hollinger was the fifth woman shot.

“The moment I stepped out of the elevator and I was face to face with him, he shot me in the head,” Hollinger told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

One year ago Friday, authorities say, a Coast Guard veteran with a history of mental health issues opened fire inside a Midtown doctor’s office before stealing a vehicle and leaving the area, launching a massive manhunt that ended hours later in Cobb County. Deion Duwane Patterson, who had a “mental break” according to his mother, was arrested about eight hours after the shootings.

For the survivors, the year has been a time of healing and recovery, both physically and mentally. St. Pierre’s loved ones say it is past time to end gun violence.

“First, we need to recognize what our community loses with a lack of safety,” Julie Zaharatos told The AJC. “Amy was a very strong contributor to this city and state. She was an amazing asset to our community on so many levels.”

Hollinger, an Acworth mother of three, has been through a year of surgeries, doctor visits and therapy, and she’s not done yet. She is grateful to be alive, but feels remorseful at times that she survived.

“Her life was senselessly taken away,” Hollinger said of St. Pierre. “And that’s for me one of the hardest things I’ve had to accept. We had similar injuries, both shot in the head. One of us lives, one of us does not.”

A city terrified

Patterson was also a patient at the Laureate Medical Group, but had arrived late for his appointment and was told he would have to come back another time, witnesses said. He became enraged, drew a handgun from his satchel and opened fire, police said.

Officers raced to the busy section of West Peachtree Street scene within minutes. Video released later by Atlanta police showed officers waiting in a stairwell for about a minute, listening to the muffled sounds inside before someone unlocked the door. Then, with guns drawn, the officers proceed, checking each room for victims or a suspect.

By then, investigators believe the suspect was out of the building and area, having stolen a vehicle from a gas station. The four surviving victims were taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, about three miles away, where trauma teams had been alerted to the shooting.

Law enforcement officers are seen on West Peachtree Street in front of Northside Hospital Midtown medical office building, where five people were shot on Wednesday, May 3, 2023. One person died. (Arvin Temkar /


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Also injured were Lisa Glynn, Georgette Whitlow and Jazzmin Daniel. According to police, Glynn was shot in the abdomen, Whitlow was shot in the arm, and Daniel was hit multiple times in the abdomen area.

Patterson, who was discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard in January 2023, wanted to be prescribed the anxiety medication Ativan, his mother said in an interview with The Associated Press after the shootings. But his Veterans Affairs medical team declined to give it to him, fearing he could become addicted, according to the report. The suspect’s mother declined to speak with The AJC.

Patterson remained on the run for hours. Investigators with both the Atlanta and Cobb County police departments credited technology with helping track the suspected gunman. The truck Patterson is accused of stealing was found in a parking garage along Heritage Court near The Battery Atlanta.

New surveillance video shows tense arrest of accused Midtown shooting in Cobb County. COURTESY

Credit: Handout

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Credit: Handout

“The integration of cameras allowed us to send officers to a very particular place,” Cobb police Capt. Darin Hull later said.

Patterson was taken into custody about eight hours after the shooting and remains in jail. In July, the Fulton County grand jury indicted him on 17 charges, including murder. A trial date has not been set.

The Northside building and Laureate Medical Office were closed for several days after the shooting.

“As we mark this day, we pray for those who experienced loss and for the continuing recovery of those who were injured, and we embrace those who bore witness to the event,” Northside said in a statement. “Our health care providers encounter challenging experiences every day, and they continue to demonstrate their remarkable ability to handle these situations. In the past year, Northsiders have managed both emotions and heartache, while never losing focus on their jobs to care for patients.”

Honoring St. Pierre

St. Pierre, 38, was a married mother of two and was passionate about social justice and helping others, according to Zaharatos, St. Pierre’s friend and colleague at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She helped pay energy bills for those unable to do so and wanted to help public schools even in areas where her own children didn’t attend, Zaharatos said.

Amy St. Pierre was 38 years old. (Family photo)

Credit: Contributed

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Credit: Contributed

“She was the kind of friend anyone needs in life,” she said.

During the recent session of the Georgia legislature, resolutions were passed in both the House and Senate to honor St. Pierre. In January, Sen. Elena Parent spoke about St. Pierre’s death.

“Loss under natural circumstances is difficult enough to survive. Loss due to violence — dare I say preventable violence — is on an entirely different level.

“How would you feel if YOUR wife or husband, YOUR parent, YOUR child, YOUR friend were a victim of random gun violence? Gun violence that we must recognize as so pervasive, that we must address.”

But beyond recognizing St. Pierre’s endless contributions, Zaharatos said the shooting that killed her friend and colleague hasn’t led to changes.

“We’ll just try to put our logic around something that makes no sense and shouldn’t have happened,” she said. “I don’t see people doing anything to prevent it from happening again.”

A survivor shares her story

“You never think that you’re going to be the victim of a mass shooting,” Hollinger said. “I don’t think people realize how quickly it happens. There’s no way I could have gotten out of harm’s way.”

Alesha Hollinger is shown while in ICU at Grady Memorial Hospital (left) and at her home on Mother's Day 2023. COURTESY PHOTOS

Credit: Family photos

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Credit: Family photos

Hollinger required facial reconstruction surgeries, but was released from Grady after seven days. In July, the bullet was removed in another surgery, and by the fall, she regained some function after months of facial paralysis.

She’s able to drive again and has returned to many of the everyday tasks she did before being shot. She credits her medical team at Grady, her husband and family, along with her faith. Now she wants to be part of the change that prevents others from getting killed senselessly, like while in a doctor’s office.

“People are killing each other and there’s no reason for it and it needs to stop,” Hollinger said. “I was fortunate to come through the other side and have a voice, and I will use my voice to speak for the people that can’t.”