Man shot, killed in Atlanta park

It wasn’t that her mother, Patrice Branch, couldn’t cook. Xyla just knew her daddy, known to friends as Thad, doted on her every whim.

“He tried to get her to have me make them, but he knew he was going to do it, if that’s what she wanted,” Branch said Monday.

It was the last time Rand would make the special treat for his little girl. He was shot and killed in Washington Park in northwest Atlanta Sunday night. It is the same area where armed thieves stole a car driven by City Councilman Ceasar Mitchell in July.

Rand was just steps from returning to Branch’s mother’s home after walking a relative through the park north of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to a nearby MARTA station.

Atlanta police responded to a call of shots fired at about 9:15 p.m. and found Rand, 46, lying on the bike path with a gunshot wound to his back, said Public Information Officer James Polite.

Police have declined to say if they believe the shooting was a random act or if someone targeted Rand.

“We have no witnesses and no motive,” Polite said Monday afternoon.

Branch and Rand had known each other since growing up together in Illinois. Branch’s mother, Debra Parks, babysat for Rand when he was a boy.

The pair dated off and on for 15 years, but at the same time, Rand was getting into trouble. A gang banger, he had been in jail repeatedly, mostly on theft charges, Branch said.

That life changed when he followed Branch to Jonesboro five years ago.

There, he turned his life over to Christ and devoted himself to his girlfriend and soon, their little girl.

“If he knew you were trouble, he would just walk away,” Branch said. “He would never have brought any violence or trouble home, knowing his daughter and I were here.”

On Sunday, the family made their usual trek from Jonesboro to Barnesville to attend New Life Anointed Ministries. They had gone to Parks’ home for dinner and family time after worship.

Rand volunteered to walk Shyniece Harris, Branch’s 17-year-old niece, to the MARTA station because there had been murmurs among neighbors of robberies along the bike path.

Parks said she was carjacked at gunpoint in her own driveway in July.

“He was doing me a favor to walk her to the train station in the dark,” Parks said. “He was supposed to come back.”

Church members squired Xyla away Monday, as Branch called Rand’s sister in Illinois to sort out arrangements.

Rand worked as a house painter and did not have life insurance. The family plans to open an account at Wachovia Bank soon, to help pay funeral expenses and have Rand shipped home to Illinois for burial.

Branch remains in shock that the gregarious man who loved to cook and clean for his family is gone.

“Whoever did this, they need to turn themselves in so no other child has to go through this, wondering why daddy isn’t coming home,” Branch said.

She will have to be the maker of pancakes now. And it will be up to her to teach Xyla to ride the bicycle with training wheels she got for Christmas. Rand planned to take her out on the bike as soon as the weather warmed.

“When we go home, the first thing she’ll say is, ‘Where is my daddy,’” Branch said. “I don’t think she’s going to understand. I know I don’t understand.”

Mike Morris 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.