Massive brawl at Atlantic Station raises concerns about safety near shopping areas

A fight involving roughly 300 teenagers broke out at Atlantic Station on Saturday evening, police said.
A fight involving roughly 300 teenagers broke out at Atlantic Station on Saturday evening, police said.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

The video clips are disturbing. They show a massive brawl involving scores of teenagers at Atlantic Station on Saturday night.

Some are running, some yelling, some throwing punches.

At the end, one youth collapses, having been pummeled. After a few kicks to the head, he starts to quake.

“I am in tears. Dear Lord, help us. I pray he is okay,” Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore said Monday in a social media post, nearly 48 hours after yet another incident outside a local shopping facility.

It’s not solely the harrowing footage that some find disquieting. It’s not only the sheer number of teens who were gathered at Atlantic Station — during a pandemic — that has sparked concern among city leaders.

It’s that violent incidents keep happening.

The brawl happened as the city is grappling with its highest annual number of homicides since 2003. On Monday, Atlanta police were called to investigate the city’s 136th homicide.

Included in those death investigations is a rash of fatal shootings at nightclubs — at least five in as many months, police said. In the past year, Lenox Square in Buckhead, which has long been another desired destination for holiday shoppers, has also been the scene of several shootings.

And it’s all happened while a trend of street racing has been demanding attention from city leaders as droves of mostly young people take to the roads to lay drag.

“While overall crime is down across the city, unfortunately, like several other major cities across the nation, Atlanta is experiencing an uptick in violent crime,” a spokesman for Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Monday. “Keeping our residents and visitors safe continues to be our number one priority, and we are working with the Atlanta Police Department and businesses to further reduce crime in our city.”

The scene that Atlanta police found Saturday evening was chaotic and frightening, according to details from an incident report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. About 300 teens were gathered near Atlantic Station’s bowling alley, and many were engaged in fights.

“There were several juveniles engaging in fistfights in the streets and on the premises,” the report said.

When officers tried to disperse the clusters of teens, several “became defiant and more disorderly, engaging in more fistfights,” the incident report said.

One teen was beaten and punched until he lost consciousness, police confirmed. When he fell to the ground, another teen repeatedly stomped on his head, the report said.

The beating caused the teen to slip into a seizure, according to Atlanta city Council member Antonio Brown, who was there as the mayhem unfolded. He said an Atlantic Station resident pulled the teen to safety and he was assessed at the scene by Grady emergency staff before being released to his aunt. The teen is expected to be OK, officials said.

A 15-year-old who police identified as the primary aggressor was detained and charged with aggravated assault. He was not named due to his age.

Brown called the incident “disheartening.” He told the AJC he was at a nearby gym when the violence broke out. As police worked to disperse the crowd, Brown said he stayed to help some of the teens contact their parents.

Brown said he watched an exchange between a teen who had been involved in the melee and his mother, who was visibly upset after learning what had happened.

“She didn’t even know he was at Atlantic Station,” Brown said.

During a regularly scheduled public safety meeting Monday, law enforcement officials told Atlanta’s City Council the fight was a “loosely organized event that started on social media,” Moore told the AJC.

“The council is definitely concerned with the incidents at Lenox mall and recently at Atlantic Station,” Moore said. “We’re staying on top of it as much as possible. There’s a lot of questions, and the council has done what it can to initiate policies to help police crack down on these things.”

The Atlanta Police Department has a mini-precinct inside Lenox Square, which has increased security in recent months in the wake of multiple shootings.

On Oct. 16, a man being robbed at the cash register inside Neiman Marcus pulled out a gun and fired shots. After he helped identify two of the people who tried to rob him, investigators realized the robbery victim was wanted for a prior crime.

Then on Nov. 20, a man was shot during a fight inside the newly opened Apple store, according to police.

“(The Atlanta Police Department) has also increased patrols in the area and officers are aware of the problem,” the law enforcement agency said in a statement. However, the agency said the Atlantic Station incident is “concerning.”

“The fact that this occurred in such a populated area when there were many people nearby makes this even more concerning,” the statement said.

Atlantic Station did not comment on the injuries or charges that resulted from the fight, but said in a statement that the property “was disrupted over the weekend after code of conduct guidelines were violated by an unprecedented gathering.”

“We have augmented our security team with additional officers for the holidays and are working closely with APD to have more off-duty officers on-site as well,” the facility said in a statement. Atlantic Station also pointed to its curfew, which is outlined in a conduct statement posted about the property.

“All youth under 18 must be accompanied by a parent after 6 p.m.,” the statement read. It also dictates that a parent can only accompany up to four youths.

While the dining and shopping destination said the curfew is strictly enforced, it is not clear how frequently violators of the curfew are removed from the property.

The AJC reached out to Atlanta police to determine how many calls officers have responded to in the Atlantic Station area in recent months but did not receive an answer.

Moore said the council was considering pay increases for some Atlanta Police Department civilian and support employees, particularly 911 dispatchers. And after the most recent shooting at Lenox Square, Moore said she put the mall’s management team in direct contact with APD Interim Chief Rodney Bryant. Atlanta police said private businesses and malls, including Atlantic Station, typically employ private companies to handle onsite security.

“Police department commanders will be meeting with the property management company to ensure they are prepared to provide adequate security to their property,” Atlanta police said.

— Staff writers Alexis Stevens and Henri Hollis contributed to this article.

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