Violence in Atlanta: Food court shooting, hijacked bus cap chaotic day

Both suspects are repeat felons, police say

One fight led to gunfire inside a busy Atlanta food court, leaving four people injured and others running for safety. A second fight, barely two hours later and a few blocks away, ended with a suspect hijacking a bus and killing one person, according to police.

The acts of violence Tuesday afternoon rattled the city before the two suspects were taken into custody; one had been arrested 11 times and the other 19, police said. Both have felony convictions on their records.

Police investigators and city leaders hadn’t removed the crime tape from a shooting scene at Peachtree Center in downtown Atlanta before they were scrambling to apprehend another man who led authorities on a three-county chase in a stolen bus. He allegedly shot and killed a person aboard before surrendering.

As felons, neither suspect could legally possess a gun.

So far this year, Atlanta has seen a decrease in crimes against people, such as aggravated assaults, according to crime data released by the department. Through June 1, APD had investigated 972 cases of aggravated assault compared with 1,112 at the same point last year. Homicides, however, are up slightly over this time last year, according to police.

Downtown shooting

The crime spree kicked off at around 2:15 p.m. when a man, later identified as 34-year-old Jeremy Malone of Morrow, got into a fight inside The Hub, a food hall in an office building at 235 Peachtree Street, Mayor Andre Dickens said during a news conference near the scene. The suspect, who previously served time for an armed robbery and has been arrested 11 times, then shot three people, according to police.

Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum gives a statement to the media following the bus hostage situation early Tuesday afternoon. June 11, 2024 (Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ben Hendren for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Credit: Ben Hendren for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“A 34-year-old suspect armed with a handgun had entered the food court, and after a brief altercation with an individual, he shot that individual,” Atlanta police chief Darin Schierbaum said. “And then that perpetrator continued on to shoot two others that were in the food court.”

An off-duty Atlanta officer shot Malone before anyone else was injured, according to officials.

Among the victims are a 47-year-old man from Grayson, a 69-year-old woman from East Point and a 70-year-old woman from Atlanta, according to police. Two victims were taken to Grady Memorial Hospital and were said to be in critical condition. The two others were taken to Emory Midtown Hospital.

“This is an individual that should never have been possessing a gun,” Schierbaum said.

The GBI was asked to investigate the shooting, which is routine in incidents involving officers.

It came barely 13 months after another Atlanta mass shooting which left one woman dead and four others critically injured at a doctor’s office in Midtown.

On Tuesday, officers again flocked to a busy Atlanta street, where panicked people rushed to safety after hearing gunshots.

Deadly ride

While the shooting was still under investigation, police learned a Gwinnett County Transit bus had been hijacked.

Around 4:35 p.m., officers were called to a possible hostage situation near 45 Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard. A man, who police later identified as 39-year-old Joseph Grier, drove away, starting a pursuit that ended in the Stone Mountain area, authorities said.

Atlanta police began to pursue the bus on I-85 near Spaghetti Junction, following it into Gwinnett. The bus exited onto Jimmy Carter Boulevard before heading south, with state troopers and police trailing behind it. News helicopters live-streamed the chase.

Officers tried unsuccessfully to stop the bus, but the suspect continued to flee until stopping on Hugh Howell Road, where he was arrested, police said. The bus struck vehicles during the wild ride.

A Dekalb County SWAT vehicle is seen blocking the bus involved in the police chase and hostage situation Tuesday afternoon. July 11, 2024 (Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ben Hendren for the AJC

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Credit: Ben Hendren for the AJC

A man on the bus had been shot and was in critical condition. He died while being taken by ambulance to the hospital, police said. None of the other passengers on the bus were injured.

Grier previously served in state prison from October 2011 until November 2014 following a conviction for aggravated assault, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.

He was also arrested by Atlanta police in June 2019 on aggravated assault and aggravated battery charges, Fulton County court records showed. He stayed in jail until September 2020.

In February 2023, Grier was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in DeKalb County, jail records showed. He was released three months later.

Tuesday’s chaos marked a violent start to this year’s summer season.

The summer months can lead to an uptick in crimes. But last year, Atlanta credited Operation Heatwave — a 16-week effort to reduce homicides, shootings and armed robberies by targeting certain crime-prone areas throughout the city — with tackling the issue.

— Staff writers Henri Hollis, David Aaro and Caroline Silva contributed to this story.