Deadly shooting bumps Atlanta's homicide count to highest since 2003

©TheAtlantaJournalConstitution

ATLANTA — Atlanta recorded its 130th homicide Tuesday, making 2020 the deadliest year on record in nearly two decades with more than a month to go.

City officials have struggled to curb the spike in violence this year, which surged over the summer with several high-profile deaths — including those of Rayshard Brooks and 8-year-old Secoriea Turner. Since then, Atlanta’s homicides have continued at a steady rate, with police investigating at least eight fatal shootings in November alone.

Atlanta hasn’t seen homicide counts this high since 2003, when there were 148 killings across the city, records show. According to the police department’s latest crime data, murders are up more than 40% compared to this time last year and shootings are up 35%, though most other crimes are down amid the pandemic.

The Atlanta Police Department investigated 99 homicides in all of 2019.

“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 Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms wrote in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “Keeping our residents and visitors safe continues to be our number one priority, and we are working with the Atlanta Police Department to further reduce crime in our city.”

The body of the latest shooting victim was discovered after midnight in the 1800 block of Tiger Flowers Drive in northwest Atlanta, according to police.

The man had been shot at least once and was unresponsive when the first officers arrived about 12:20 a.m., police spokesman Officer Steve Avery said. He was later pronounced dead at the scene.

“We are seeing numbers we have not seen in Atlanta as it relates to our murder rate,” Bottoms said recently. “We recognize that this is a problem. … Right now, our eye is on crime in Atlanta.”

Several fatal shootings have occurred in and around Atlanta nightclubs in recent weeks, prompting police to beef up patrols at popular bars and lounges.

Late last month, an employee of a northeast Atlanta nightclub owned by rapper 2 Chainz was shot to death during an early morning dispute over the price of admission, police said.

A week later, up-and-coming Chicago rapper King Von was one of two people killed during a shooting outside the Monaco Hookah Lounge on Trinity Avenue in downtown Atlanta. The 26-year-old, whose real name was Dayvon Bennett, was among several people shot during a fight outside his Nov. 6 album release party. A second man, 34-year-old Mark Blakely of Chicago, was also killed.

And three days after that, another shootout outside The Voo lounge on Campbellton Road in southwest Atlanta left one man dead and injured a bystander who got caught in the crossfire.

Bottoms said the uptick in nightclub violence is occurring in part because people are coming to Atlanta from states with tougher coronavirus restrictions.

“We are seeing a number of people traveling from out-of-state to come to Atlanta to go to the nightclubs and to the bars because we’re open as if we’re not in the midst of a pandemic,” she said last Wednesday during her weekly virtual news conference. “When the nightclubs are closed in Chicago, people are coming to Atlanta to party.”

Police are also stepping up patrols at Lenox Square following Friday afternoon’s shooting inside the new Apple store. While the victim in that case survived, the shooting was one of at least six reported at the Buckhead mall in the past year, one of which was fatal.

Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore called the recent spike in shootings concerning, particularly those in and around the malls heading into the holiday season.

“The mall is just one of many locations seeing this uptick in gun violence,” Moore said, adding she has also noticed a surge in shootings at nightclubs and on the streets.

She believes the pandemic could be playing a role in this year’s increase in shootings.

“Since we’ve been more sequestered and limited in what we can do and where we can go, it’s changed the behavior of people and certainly has increased the level of violent crime,” Moore said.

Children have not been spared from this year’s spike in gun violence. On July 4, Turner was killed after multiple gunmen shot at her family’s SUV while manning a makeshift roadblock near the site of the now-demolished Wendy’s where Brooks was killed by police a month earlier.

Though investigators said multiple suspects were involved, only one person — 19-year-old Julian Conley — has been charged in the rising third grader’s death. That investigation continues, and the reward for information about Turner’s killers has increased to $50,000.

On Tuesday morning, a 12-year-old boy was shot in the leg after a gun was fired from a neighboring apartment in southwest Atlanta, authorities said. The boy’s neighbor was detained when police arrived, but it’s unclear if he will face any charges.

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(Data specialist Jennifer Peebles contributed to this article.)

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©2020 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)