‘We feel very grateful’: Man injured in Buckhead shooting spree recovering

Andrew and Anne Worrell (family photo)

Credit: Family photo

Credit: Family photo

Andrew and Anne Worrell (family photo)

On Saturday morning, Andrew Worrell was rushed to a hospital after two bullets ripped through his body while he was taking his morning walk in Buckhead. On Sunday, he was back on his feet.

Worrell’s wife, Anne Worrell, said he was able to move around with the help of a walker just over 24 hours after the shooting sent him to a hospital.

The 41-year-old, who works for a facilities management company, was walking near the 1200 block of West Wesley Road about 8:30 a.m. when a man drove by and began shooting from a car. Police identified 22-year-old Gaelen Newsom as the suspect responsible in the shooting, which police say was part of a violent spree that also included shooting at joggers and ended with a car crash that left a man seriously injured.

Although Worrell had been shot twice, the damage was not as bad as first feared, Anne Worrell said.

“It seems like some sort of miracle that it didn’t do any major damage,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We feel very grateful.”

The circumstances of the shooting that sent Worrell to the hospital disturbed his wife because she considered the area safe and her husband’s actions were so innocent, she said.

“I wouldn’t have thought this was a dangerous thing to do,” she said. “That just makes it seem more violating.”

The bizarre crime spree began Saturday morning when a driver opened fire on a group of pedestrians in Buckhead, police said. (Photo: Channel 2 Action News)

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In Buckhead in recent months, some residents and officials say they are on edge over a rise in crime and a lack of security. The area’s commercial corridors have been the scene of several shootings and an increase in nighttime street racing.

Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook said Sunday afternoon that he still lacked details regarding the incident that happened on the previous day, but he praised police for the rapid capture of a suspect. Violence in the city had become so frequent there has barely been time to process one incident before having to address another, he said.

“Unfortunately, there is too much of this stuff to allow the luxury of focusing on only one,” Shook told the AJC.

Shortly after Worrell was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, police learned that two joggers had been shot at along the same road, police said. Deputy Atlanta police Chief Charles Hampton Jr. said nobody was struck in that incident.

Police asked nearby residents for surveillance footage or cellphone video leading to the suspect. Nearly three hours into their search, a man was struck by a car at an apartment complex along Noble Creek Drive, leaving him severely injured.

Police said the man was taking out the trash at the Collier Ridge Apartments when a silver sedan hit him and pinned him to an unoccupied pickup truck. He was taken to a hospital and rushed into surgery. Further details on his condition were not available Sunday.

At the scene, police detained the driver of a silver Kia Forte similar to the one described in the earlier incidents, Hampton said. The driver was later identified as Newsom.

He faces one count of attempted murder, three counts of aggravated assault and two counts of possession of a firearm during a crime in the incidents, Atlanta police said.

In addition to Saturday’s Buckhead shooting incidents, Atlanta police are investigating two separate shootings later in the day that sent two men to the hospital just more than an hour apart.

The first of the shootings happened about 9:45 p.m. in the 200 block of Arthur Langford Jr. Place, Atlanta police said in a statement. The second happened about 10:50 p.m. in the 400 block of Edgewood Avenue. Each time, officers responding to the scene were met by men suffering from gunshot wounds.

Both men were alert when they were taken to hospitals, according to police. The circumstances that led to the incidents are not clear. Both shootings remain under investigation.

The surge in violent crime in Atlanta has led to an outcry from rattled residents and business owners, and pressure is building on public officials to put the epidemic of violence at the forefront of their efforts. Buckhead residents and leaders have been particularly concerned about the dangerous trend, which has helped reignite a call for the neighborhood to form its own city.

On Sunday afternoon, the toll grew. Atlanta police reported a man died after he was shot at the Intercontinental Hotel in Buckhead.

Police responded to reports of a person shot about 2 p.m. at the hotel on Peachtree Road Northeast. A man with a gunshot wound was taken to the hospital in critical condition and later died, according to reports. The investigation is ongoing.

“Buckhead is on edge,” said Jim Durrett, president of the Buckhead Coalition. “Yesterday shook everybody up. People are asking, ‘What the heck has happened to us and who is actually going to do something about this?’”

Community groups have supported private funding for crime-prevention measures like on-street cameras, license plate readers and security patrols, and it is also time for the city’s political and law enforcement leadership to look for better approaches, he said.

A long-term solution means a broad approach, Durrett said.

“I get the sense that we are experiencing a societal breakdown, and there are so many guns that are available to so many people — the genie is out of the bottle,” he said. “We need to be policing our communities to keep us safe and also to work on the root causes of all kinds of divides.”

In the aftermath of the Buckhead shooting, Anne Worrell said she doesn’t want to feel or act differently. But she said she is not sure how to move forward.

“I don’t want anybody or anything to scare me out of my neighborhood or from doing what I normally do, but something has to be done,” she said. “Whether it is about mental health or it’s gang-related, there is a breakdown in the system with people getting guns.”

Shook contended Saturday’s incidents seemed likely to raise fears among people who might have thought they were unlikely to be affected by the mayhem.

“Most of the shootings in Atlanta and Buckhead stem from disputes among people who are predisposed to settle their disputes with firearms,” Shook said. “If this were a case of a jogger out jogging and being randomly targeted without provocation, then the temperature goes up exponentially.”