Little Dakayla Chatman was a daddy’s girl, and it wasn’t a secret.
Just three weeks ago, Dakayla celebrated her third birthday with a party at Chuck E. Cheese’s. And her father, Dantavious, was right by her side, family members said Wednesday.
Dakayla was with her dad Tuesday night while the two waited at the MARTA bus stop on Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway, just down the street from her grandmother’s home. As she sat on a bench, she watched another man walk up to her father and shoot him.
“Dee” Chatman, 31, died after being taken to Grady Memorial Hospital.
“It’s like he kept the baby from getting shot,” Dakayla’s grandmother, Veronica Tuggle, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Her son and his daughter had just left her home and planned to take the bus to their home, off Jonesboro Road, Tuggle said. Dakayla was excited to get home to see her mom.
It was a cool night, and Tuggle’s front door was open, and some family members were on the front porch when shots were fired.
“They saw the guy walk up to him and start shooting,” Tuggle said Wednesday afternoon. “I can look out my front door and actually see where he got killed.”
Tuggle ran to the bus stop, and found the 3-year-old trembling and scared.
“She said, ‘My daddy just got shot,’” Tuggle told Channel 2 Action News. “Imagine: A 3-year-old. A 3-year-old?”
Investigators were searching Wednesday for the person responsible for shooting Chatman, but no information was released on a possible motive. As family members gathered at Tuggle’s home, there were tears of grief for the father and relief that Dakayla wasn’t injured.
More than anything, there were questions. Why Dee? Who would kill him?
“What kind of animal would do this in front of a 3-year-old baby?” Tuggle asked. “Please tell me. I want to know why. Why did this young man kill my son in front of a 3-year-old? In front of his 3-year-old.
By late afternoon, Tuggle’s voice was hoarse from crying, and she hadn’t slept. Her niece, Kala Parks, said her cousin was an aspiring rapper who devoted time to both his music and his daughter.
“She was a daddy’s girl,” Parks said.
Her cousin, Dee, didn’t have any known enemies, making his shooting death harder to understand, Parks said.
Dakayla was playing with other cousins Wednesday afternoon, Parks said.
“We’re really happy that she’s running around playing,” Parks said. “We want whoever did this to come forth.”
A Go Fund me page was set up to help the family with funeral costs and to start a fund for Dakayla’s future. Funeral arrangements had not been made late Wednesday.
Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to contact Atlanta police.
— Staff writer Mike Morris contributed to this report.
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