Kidnap victim to mom before fatal shot: ‘These boys are not playing’

Less than two hours after her son and his girlfriend were kidnapped in front of her house, Kawana Brown got a call demanding money. Brown asked to talk to her son.

“These boys are not playing,” Jeronta Brown told her.

Hours later, Jeronta, 23, and his pregnant girlfriend, Briana Brooks, 21, were found in Atlanta. Both had been shot in the head, and Jeronta was dead. Late Thursday, Brooks died after being removed from life support. Police in both DeKalb County and Atlanta are investigating, but no arrests had been made late Friday.

Outside of Atlanta police headquarters Friday afternoon, Capt. Paul Guerrucci said investigators are trying to determine if a kidnapping Thursday night is related. In that case, the woman was not injured.

In the second kidnapping, a woman was taken in East Atlanta and found almost 18 hours later Thursday around7 p.m. Guerrucci declined to give any details about the kidnap victim, the ransom demand, how she was found or where she was found. He said police feared for her safety.

In both kidnappings, a ransom was requested, and police have said the victims were targeted.

“We do not believe we have a kidnapping crew going around and snatching people off the street,” Guerrucci said.

DeKalb County police are investigating the couple’s kidnapping, while Atlanta police investigate the homicides and the latest kidnapping.

“We have multiple leads to follow up on,” said Guerrucci of the homicide investigation.

It was shortly after midnight Aug. 30 when Jeronta, his girlfriend, Briana Brooks, their 8-month-old daughter and Jeronta’s teenage sister returned to their DeKalb County home after a late-night run to Wendy’s. As they got out the car at the Colleen Court home, the four were approached by men wearing masks and all black attire, according to police.

“My son told my daughter to run with the baby as fast as she could,” Kawana Brown told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Friday.

Brown and Brooks were handcuffed and put in the back of a brown van. The frantic 14-year-old told her mom and stepfather what had had happened, who immediately called 911.

“They must’ve seen the police coming and they got away,” Brown said.

In the early-morning hours, Brown said her family clung to hope that the two would be returned safely. There was a knock at the door, possibly the same men, but the family didn’t open the door and again called the police.

Then, there were phone calls placed to Jeronta’s stepfather and his mother on their cell phones. The numbers were blocked, Brown said. But whoever was on the other end was demanding $150,000. During one call, Brown got to hear her son’s voice. He pleaded for her to get the money.

At the police station, Jeronta’s 14-year-old sister told police everything she could, but there were few clues for detectives to follow. Around 4:30 a.m., the couple was found in Atlanta.

“I just busted out crying,” Kawana Brown said Friday. “I knew right then. Oh my gosh, they’ve been shot.”

Jeronta was dead. Brooks was clinging to life and transported to Grady Memorial Hospital, where doctors delivered her baby girl that wasn’t due until October. After several days on life support, Brooks died.

The couple had planned to marry and along with their baby were living with Brown and her husband, she said. Instead of a wedding, the family was forced to plan a funeral.

Brown said she has been unable to see her baby granddaughter, who is now with Brooks’ mother. And she has not been allowed to see her new grand-baby.

At a vigil Thursday night, other family members pleaded for those responsible for the killings to surrender. Jeronta’s stepfather said he believes those responsible knew about a disability settlement he recently received.

“I drive a nice car, my wife drives a nice car,” Calvin Reddick said. “They must know that we have money.”

Brown said Friday her family can’t imagine any other motive for the killings, which have neighbors scared. Jeronta’s sister is fearful the men will return.

“She’s really devastated,” Brown said. “She’s scared to go to school.”

The funeral for Jeronta Brown will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Mt. Patmos Baptist Church, 2207 Candler Rd., Decatur. Brooks’ funeral will be held at 1 p.m. Sept. 13 at Mt. Nebo Baptist Church, 1025 McDonough Blvd., Atlanta.

— Staff writer Rhonda Cook contributed to this report.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.