‘He had his whole life’: Family struggles after 12-year-old’s shooting death

David Mack, 12, was found shot to death Wednesday afternoon near his southwest Atlanta neighborhood. His family had reported him missing the night before.
David Mack, 12, was found shot to death Wednesday afternoon near his southwest Atlanta neighborhood. His family had reported him missing the night before.

Credit: Family Photo

Credit: Family Photo

Glenda Mack knew something was wrong when her grandson wasn’t home for dinner.

The 12-year-old called her Tuesday afternoon to say he was going to play football at a friend’s house, just like he had so many times before. He was typically home before dark, but as the hours passed his grandmother began to worry.

She called David’s cellphone repeatedly. Each time it went straight to voicemail. It wasn’t like him to be out so late, she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

After waiting hours for him to come home, she and David’s sister drove around their southwest Atlanta neighborhood searching for him.

By 8:45 p.m., Mack called the police to their Beecher Road home and filed a missing persons report. Officers canvassed the area but were unable to find the boy. Several relatives stayed overnight, and on Wednesday morning, the family set out again to find him.

They discovered David’s body about 1:45 p.m. along a creek bed between Shirley Drive and the John A. White Golf Course, not far from his home. He had been shot repeatedly.

Now, Mack just wants to know who killed her grandson. She also wonders what went through David’s mind in his final moments.

“I wonder if he knew he was going to be shot or if he could have ran,” she said Thursday morning, her voice breaking.

Explore12-year-old boy found shot to death behind SW Atlanta neighborhood

Residents near the crime scene said they heard several gunshots behind their homes Tuesday evening but didn’t realize anyone had been struck.

As of Thursday, no arrests had been made in the case and detectives were still working to determine what prompted the shooting.

The 12-year-old’s death follows a string of high-profile shootings across metro Atlanta that claimed the lives of several young children over the past year.

There was 8-year-old Secoriea Turner, gunned down at a makeshift roadblock on the Fourth of July. There was 13-year-old Brayan Zavala, killed in the front yard of his Clayton County home in October while helping his older brother fix the family’s lawn mower. And there was 7-year-old Kennedy Maxie, who died after being struck by a stray bullet while shopping with her family in Buckhead just days before Christmas.

Mack never imagined her grandson would also fall victim to gun violence.

“Never did I think I would have to plan a service and bury him,” she said. “Never. Never.”

Chata Spikes, the Atlanta Police Department’s public affairs director, said the deaths of children are often gut-wrenching for the officers who work those cases.

“Anytime a child is involved in a crime, it’s devastating,” Spikes said. “This is not what we want to see in our city. In this case, you have a 12-year-old — that’s a very tender age. We are focused on finding out who did this to this young man.”

David Mack, 12, was shot to death in southwest Atlanta. His grandmother said he went out to play football with friends but never made it home.
David Mack, 12, was shot to death in southwest Atlanta. His grandmother said he went out to play football with friends but never made it home.

Credit: Family Photo

Credit: Family Photo

David’s family described him as an outgoing child. He loved computers and planned to study engineering in college, they said.

Mack said her grandson was a typical 12-year-old. The seventh grade Young Middle School student had his “naughty moments” and occasionally talked back, but he was always quick to apologize when he did something wrong.

“He might get angry, and then later on he’d come up and give me an old big bear hug and a kiss on the cheek,” said Mack, who raised David since he was just 5 days old. “He had his whole life ahead of him.”

In the weeks leading up to the boy’s death, David mostly stayed at home. He took classes online and didn’t venture out much amid the pandemic.

“But he asked if he could go to his friend’s house,” Mack said. “He said, ‘You know all we do is go to his backyard. We all wear masks and there’s never no more than three of us.’”

At the time, she was picking up another grandchild from school. She knew the other family took the pandemic seriously and agreed to let David go, assuming he’d be safe. He told her he was leaving in 10 minutes.

“I said, ‘OK.’ He said, ‘Love you’ and I said, ‘Love you, too,’” Mack said. It was the last thing she would ever say to him.

The 12-year-old’s death follows a string of high-profile shootings across metro Atlanta that claimed the lives of several young children over the past year.
The 12-year-old’s death follows a string of high-profile shootings across metro Atlanta that claimed the lives of several young children over the past year.

Credit: Family Photo

Credit: Family Photo

She came home that afternoon and started dinner, thinking her grandson would be home to eat by 5 p.m. As the clock on the stovetop neared 6, however, she decided to go look for David herself.

“We didn’t see anybody playing football,” she said. “Nobody was out. We drove to another neighborhood, and by that time it was good and dark.”

They called David’s cellphone and kept getting his voicemail. It wasn’t like him not to pick up, and he was usually good about charging his phone before leaving home.

“All sorts of things go through your head because he just doesn’t do that,” his grandmother said.

It’s unclear if he ever made it to his friend’s house, but Mack believes her grandson was on his way home when he was killed.

“I have a lot of questions,” she said, fighting back tears.

David’s family is still making funeral arrangements, but they launched a GoFundMe page Thursday to help with his burial expenses.

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