Last Saturday, 31 gunshots flew from a firearm into the afternoon air on a dead-end lane called Sweetgum. Inside a home on that street was a 6-year-old boy named Z’Mari Mitchell. For a moment, as the pops rang through the subdivision off Glenwood Road, the child could’ve seemed lucky: 30 of these bullets missed him.
But fortune ends when one connects, which it did with Z’Mari.
He was brain dead but held on for days in the hospital as doctors tried everything and his mother prayed.
“I slept in the bed with him. I know my baby was dead,” Trisha Mitchell told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday. “I just didn’t want to lose my baby.”
Now she knows she has. She’s planning the funeral, wondering how to pay for it and wondering how to move away from the house where trivial drama – chatter on social media – sparked violence that left her son dead.
DeKalb County police said a group of teenagers went to the Mitchell home with intentions of fighting Z’Mari’s sister over a social media post, though investigators don’t want to reveal specifics of the social media angle yet.
Mitchell said the visitors pulled up in the yard and asked for her 18-year-old daughter.
Mitchell and Z’Mari’s father were heading out for Cinco de Mayo. Z’Mari, an easygoing boy, was upstairs playing Playstation, a favorite pastime. He was supposed to report for the first day of T-ball later.
Mitchell’s daughter and a friend came outside and met the group in the yard, and a fight ensued.
Mitchell tried to break it up, and finally everyone separated. The teenagers got back in their cars and started to drive away. Z’Mari’s sister went inside the house.
Then one car stopped, and 17-year-old Meshon Williams emerged with a pistol in hand, police said.
He allegedly started to fire toward the home: 31 shots, 30 misses.
Mitchell’s daughter tried to shield little Z’Mari on the floor, but that one bullet hit him in the head. His mother called 911 and screamed for help, for anyone to help.
“What’s going on?” Z’Mari managed to say before he couldn’t say anything else.
Mitchell held the child and told him over and over it would be OK. She told him to breathe. When the ambulance arrived, he was breathing, she said, but it was clear that night at the hospital he was gone. Machines kept him alive only technically.
Mitchell and Z’Mari’s two sisters prayed at his bedside.
The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office’s Fugitive Unit searched for Williams. The unit hunts suspects accused of violent crimes every day, but the deputies felt extra urgency to find this suspect.
“A lot of our investigators are parents,” Major L.J. Roscoe told the AJC.
Roscoe, field division commander for the sheriff’s office, saw the search come to a head Thursday morning during a canvass of the Candler Road area, with the help of DeKalb police and the Georgia State Patrol.
The cops spotted Williams in a stolen Dodge Durango, Roscoe said.
All three agencies pursued in a brief chase, which ended with the suspect jumping from the SUV – still moving – and running on the side of I-20.
Roscoe supervised as deputies set up a perimeter and brought in dogs to track Williams. Soon, the K-9s became interested in the junipers lining the roadside. The bushes are thick, down an embankment.
A deputy crept in and saw the 17-year-old, hiding in the underbrush.
When he came out, Roscoe saw his face.
“He looked indignant,” the major said.
Z’Mari’s mother said her daughter hardly knows the suspect, only through friends of friends.
The shooting has left the sister overcome by guilt, because the people had come to fight her. The mother keeps telling her it’s not her fault, that no one asked for this, for the fight or the shooting.
Her younger daughter, 8, doesn’t want to go back to school, knowing her brother will never return.
The mother is keeping busy with calls and all the people stopping by to hug her neck and tell her they’re sorry. She’s trying not to think about the gruesome sight of Z’Mari’s face in the house. She’s trying not to think about the house at all, instead staying with friends. She said she will never go back.
“My baby’s blood is on the floor,” she said.
A fundraiser has been set up to help the family.