Cameras, license plate readers help cops track, arrest Midtown shooting suspect

Atlanta police and a multijurisdictional force swarmed Midtown Atlanta on Wednesday after five people were shot. The suspect was later arrested in Cobb County, thanks in part to an extensive camera system.

Credit: John Spink

Credit: John Spink

Atlanta police and a multijurisdictional force swarmed Midtown Atlanta on Wednesday after five people were shot. The suspect was later arrested in Cobb County, thanks in part to an extensive camera system.

Authorities say technology played a vital role in Wednesday’s eight-hour search for a man accused of opening fire inside a Midtown medical office, killing one woman and wounding four others.

Police used a combination of security cameras and license plate readers to track the movements of Deion Patterson after he allegedly “commandeered” a pickup truck and left the city, officials said at a news conference late Wednesday.

He was eventually apprehended near Cobb County’s Truist Park at about 8 p.m., bringing an end to the massive manhunt that involved nearly a dozen law enforcement agencies.

“Technology played a huge role,” Cobb police Chief Stuart VanHoozer said. “If you rewind the hands of time four years, we probably would not be where we are right now. ... Those tools are really what got us the clues that we needed.”

An Atlanta Police Department surveillance camera at the intersection of Hardee Street and Mayson Avenue in Atlanta's Edgewood neighborhood.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

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Credit: Alyssa Pointer /

The search for Patterson shifted to Cobb around 2 p.m., and the truck he is accused of stealing was eventually located inside a parking garage along Heritage Court near The Battery Atlanta.

“We did get information that the shooter may have come to Cobb County, so we began to actually check our Flock cameras,” said Cobb police spokesman Sgt. Wayne Delk, referring to the agency’s license plate readers. “We went back and did discover that the vehicle had entered Cobb.”

Those cameras showed Patterson was in the area by about 12:30 p.m., officials said. But Cobb police didn’t realize it until checking the cameras about two hours later.

As the search intensified, 911 operators fielded emergency calls from numerous people who believed they had seen Patterson.

“It was a fairly chaotic scene,” VanHoozer told reporters. “We were being called to various locations in that area about what appeared to be legitimate sightings of this individual.”

Tracking the suspect’s movements and having a general idea of where Patterson was greatly aided in that process, the chief said.

“The operators in our Real-Time Crime Center were fielding many of these calls and looking at them and trying to determine which ones seemed legitimate and which ones did not,” he said.

The Cobb County Department of Transportation also shared access to its traffic camera feeds, which authorities said proved extremely helpful.

“That is where we got the precise location of the building that he walked into,” VanHoozer said.

Flock Safety CEO and founder Garrett Langley said his Atlanta-based company has been working with Cobb police for five years. He said he knew that once the stolen vehicle was spotted there, it would be only a matter of hours before the suspect was found and arrested based on the vast network of cameras in the county.

Flock cameras can only be used to track cars and license plates. To use them, law enforcement agencies need to have a case number and a crime must have been committed, Langley said. The system allows agencies that use Flock cameras to work together in real time.

“If someone like an Atlanta Police Department officer was looking for a car, they can enter it into a system and they now have the ability to find that car anywhere in the metro Atlanta area,” Langley, a Georgia Tech electrical engineering graduate, said.

Langley said the company has no access to any of the cameras or footage and can only help with support-related questions.

Even if Patterson had left the state in a vehicle, APD would have been alerted if it was spotted by a Flock camera.

Langley said he got a number of text messages thanking him, but he redirected the praise to law enforcement officers who were able to locate Patterson.

“I have an easy job, I write code, I design circuit boards. The hard work is happening in the field,” he said. “As I was watching the scene unfold (Wednesday), I saw no hesitation in the men and women that we ask to protect us every day.”

In Atlanta, the city’s Connect Atlanta program allows businesses and citizens with cameras to register them so they can be utilized in the event of an emergency. Cobb has a similar program. If a crime occurs, those in the area with registered cameras may be contacted to provide footage.

Atlanta police Chief Darin Schierbaum has called the program the “neighborhood watch of the 21st Century,” and the surveillance camera network has been crucial in solving other recent cases.

In November, cameras captured a shooting on the 17th Street bridge that left a 12-year-old and a 15-year-old dead. Cameras captured the shooting and led investigators to believe as many as three people fired shots.

After the shooting, a group of teenagers boarded a MARTA train at the Arts Center station. Train cameras showed the teens celebrating and showing guns to other passengers as they rode through the city, police previously said. Investigators were later able to identify six suspects, including five juveniles.

Last summer, Schierbaum and Mayor Andre Dickens praised the cameras and asked for more businesses and residents in the city to join the video network.

In addition to helping solve crimes, the camera integration system also helped officers locate a woman with Alzheimer’s last year when she wandered away from home and boarded a MARTA bus, officials said.

”Our technology is being used to solve crimes and assist the most vulnerable citizens that we have in Atlanta,” Schierbaum said.

In August, it took about two hours to identify and arrest a woman accused of killing two men and injuring another in Midtown with the use of the camera network and tips from bystanders, according to police. They used the camera network to track Raissa Kengne’s taxi as it made its way to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, where she was arrested.

During Wednesday’s search for the Midtown shooting suspect, multiple tips from the public also helped lead investigators to Patterson.