The shooting of a security guard last weekend at Lenox Square by two 15-year-olds is a grim illustration of the mind-numbing randomness, brazenness and, even worse, casualness of violence afflicting Atlanta.
A widely circulated video of the crime shows one of the young miscreants — a teenaged girl — holding an unarmed mall security guard at gunpoint while her cohort tries to snatch his keys. The duo thought the guard had keys to the closed mall (he didn’t) and that they’d be able to go inside and ransack the Apple store.
After several seconds of the guard’s resistance, the girl shot the man twice point-blank in the chest. He is in critical condition.
The attack was the latest in the seemingly endless loop of carnage afflicting the streets. The havoc and bloodshed is not limited to the city of Atlanta — a cashier at a DeKalb County supermarket was shot to death Monday by a customer after an argument about wearing a face mask.
But Atlanta is the violent epicenter.
I talked with an Atlanta officer about the vast increase in the number of shootings this year (327 as of June 6, up 40% this year). He likened it to the computer game Grand Theft Auto, a dystopian urban landscape of gangs, fast cars and gunfights. “The world of Grand Theft Auto is a lot like the mayhem we’re seeing,” he said. “And it’s a game a lot of them play.”
I come to this because the Lenox shooting was one of a handful of crimes featured Monday night on the TV show of Fox News gabber Tucker Carlson as he explored the notion of Buckhead wanting to break away from Atlanta to form its own city.
Carlson’s show featured Bill White, the Buckhead cityhood’s frontman, a fairly recent migrant from New York City. He said the new city (if allowed by the Georgia Legislature and then approved by residents) would create its own police force that would “put a smackdown on crime.”
The show also brought up a shooting spree in early June, when a crazed gunman in Buckhead shot at joggers, wounded a man who was walking, and then slammed his car into a resident taking out his trash, grievously injuring him.
Carlson then mentioned a 2020 incident he learned about from the Buckhead cityhood folks. In that case, a man and his girlfriend were dropping off their car at a Mercedes dealership when they were confronted by a man who allegedly threatened them with a knife. According to court testimony, he repeatedly told the woman, ”Get on your knees you white #$%@ and beg for your life.”
The man then ran around the car and started punching the couple before fleeing. The report included video of the encounter shot by the couple and an interview with the woman, who said their attacker had been arrested for battery in Clayton County and had been released from jail.
Proponents for the new city of Buckhead say such lawlessness would not be tolerated by its police force. But if one looks at the facts, the Atlanta Police Department rose to the occasion in each of the three crimes brought up on Carlson’s show.
The two teens in the Buckhead shooting were captured in 10 minutes and then largely confessed.
The 22-year-old man identified in the shooting spree, Gaelen Newsom, was arrested a couple of hours later. He was likely having a mental breakdown.
And the suspect believed to have attacked the couple at the car dealership, Fakhraddivn Moore, was arrested minutes later about half a mile away.
Carlson then went on to mention an especially horrific attack that occurred in Brookhaven, which is close to Buckhead. Earlier this month, Valerie Kasper, who was five-months pregnant, was stabbed in the back four times as she walked on the Peachtree Creek Greenway. She had to have an emergency C-section to deliver the baby.
Credit: Brookhaven Police Department / GoFundMe
Credit: Brookhaven Police Department / GoFundMe
Police later arrested Christopher Jones, 30, a couple of miles away at the Arts Center MARTA Station in Midtown. Police said Jones was mentally ill and homeless.
Race is an undercurrent in the discussion. Buckhead is almost three-quarters white, as were the victims featured on Carlson’s show. And the attackers were Black.
However, in Black neighborhoods across the city, victims are widespread and residents there want police to protect them too.
Recently, there was a shooting at Greenbriar Mall in Southwest Atlanta, which is largely Black. That wasn’t nearly as big a story as the Lenox crimes. Part of the reason is that Southwest Atlanta can’t threaten to secede and take away 40% of the city’s income, as Buckhead’s leaving would do.
If that happens, perhaps Midtown will want to leave also, and then the city of Atlanta implodes. You think the crime is bad now? Just wait.
Interestingly, the city of Brookhaven, where the pregnant woman was attacked, is what Buckhead aspires to be. Brookhaven incorporated as a city a few years ago and has its own police force. Yet random and bad things occur there.
A new Buckhead city police force could do better only if they’d arrest people who are thinking of committing crimes. The movie “Minority Report,” starring Tom Cruise, was set in the future when a special police unit could arrest people before they committed crimes. News flash: The technology isn’t here, folks.
Also, it appears three of the cases have something to do with mentally ill attackers, as well as people with prior arrests. The criminal justice system, especially in Fulton County, has been broken for decades — from an overcrowded jail, to judges with overflowing courtrooms being forced to release criminals or cut lenient deals, to a district attorney’s office that overcharged crimes and wouldn’t allow deals, to police officers who miss court dates because they can’t sit through five hours of court cases before theirs come up.
Here’s the rub: Atlanta police were making plenty of arrests, as Buckhead police would probably do. But then they often saw the same ne’er-do-wells walking the streets the next day.
Former Atlanta police chief Erika Shields once said to me in frustration: “The Fulton County judicial system is broken. … It’s a running joke when we ask (about a recently arrested criminal) and we’ll find these folks are already bonded out.”
My guess is that Buckhead cops would be making the same complaints in a couple of years unless things are fixed.
There are several initiatives afoot. There are now second thoughts regarding the city of Atlanta’s effort to close its jail. Fulton’s former DA was defeated last year. And there’s an election this year for a new Atlanta mayor and City Council members. It’s crystal clear that Atlanta does need to get its act together and hire more cops. And there needs to be an administration that listens to the complaints of all communities.
Ed Lindsey, a former state representative who is one of those heading the effort to thwart the Buckhead cityhood movement, told me last week that a friend said, “I don’t like the idea of a Buckhead City. But I like the threat of it.”
Maybe this all can be one loud wakeup call.