Deidra Alexander had just passed the bar exam and landed her first job as a prosecutor in metro Atlanta not long before her younger brother was killed.
Derek Alexander, 21, was shot to death in southwest Atlanta on April 19, sending his family into a whirlwind of grief and uncertainty that sparked an unrelenting pursuit of justice in his sister.
It was her boyfriend who broke the news to her once she got home from work that night, and his face said it all.
“It’s a weird gut feeling ... something bad happened ... and I just, I was like, ‘Is my brother dead?’” Deidra Alexander recalled.
Derek Alexander, a business administration student at Georgia State University, had a dream of starting his own business and had already launched a clothing line. He always marched to the beat of his own drum and was a fun-loving young man who flew by the seat of his pants and was best known for his dry, sarcastic humor, his sister said.
So when she learned the fate that befell her brother, she broke down crying. But her grief quickly turned to anger, she said. Since that day, she has remained in near-constant contact with the Atlanta police detectives working her brother’s case.
“For me, it’s still business time,” she said. “It’s still time for (stuff) to be getting done. I have questions that I’ve asked the detective, and there’s stuff that I’ve been like ... if we can make it happen, then let’s make it happen.”
Investigators have been unable to share many details with her. But Deidra Alexander has tried to raise awareness about the case on social media in hopes that someone will recognize the suspects who can be seen in security footage released by police. It shows three young men walking into the gated Creekside at Adamsville community on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, where Derek Alexander was sitting in his 2016 Toyota Corolla. A few minutes later, he was shot in his neck and leg and died at the scene.
One of the men, 19-year-old Quataven Williams, was arrested last week. Police are still looking for one of them — the one wearing a black hoodie and yellow sneakers, who they’ve been unable to identify. Investigators have not said if the third person remains a person of interest.
Police have not released information about a motive, and it’s not clear why Derek Alexander was at that complex. He lived in Brookhaven and, to his sister’s knowledge, didn’t know anyone who lived in that area.
Being a lawyer, Deidra Alexander knows how the criminal justice system works and has been able to communicate that perspective to her parents, who are especially struggling with the loss, she said. It’s been difficult for her, too, but her work has given her an outlet for her grief, at least for now.
So when the inevitable question — How are you doing? — comes around, she simply tells people she’s seen better days.
“Obviously I’m sad, but it’s still very much like there’s (stuff) to do, there’s (stuff) that needs to be accomplished,” she said. “Once that part of it is over, then maybe how I feel will shift a little bit, you know, and then I truly grieve? But right now, I’m like, ‘There’s (stuff) to do.’”
She said her family is brainstorming a couple of philanthropical initiatives in her brother’s name. So far, they’ve raised enough funds to pay for soccer uniforms and club fees for a few children in the area. She and Derek played soccer growing up, and he went on to play the sport in Germany during his senior year of high school.
They also hope to start a foundation that focuses on addressing the societal problems that drive gun violence, because “even with these people that killed my brother, something somewhere failed them.”
“With my job, we get defendants that are young,” she said. “I go home and I cry over my defendants because like, I don’t understand why we’re at this juncture.”