Following the deadly shooting of an 8-year-old girl over the holiday weekend near where Rayshard Brooks was killed last month in Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) demanded an end to the violence that has beset the city amid protests over racism and police brutality.
“There are peaceful demonstrators across this city and across this country, and I applaud them and I thank them for being peaceful and for honoring the lives of so many people who have been killed in America because of injustice,” she continued. “But this random wild, wild West, shoot 'em up because you can, it has got to stop. It has to stop.”
Bottoms’s emotional plea came one day after Secoriea Turner, 8, was fatally injured Saturday night not far from a Wendy’s restaurant that has become the site of protests after an Atlanta police officer shot and killed Brooks, a black man, there on June 12. Garrett Rolfe, the officer who fired the shots, was dismissed from the department and has since been charged with felony murder and other offenses. Devin Brosnan, the second officer involved in the incident, is also facing charges.
But Bottoms stressed Sunday that police officers weren’t at fault for the recent spate of shootings that have left more than 20 people injured and several dead, including Secoriea. Instead, Bottoms denounced armed community members for taking advantage of Georgia’s open-carry law and “wreaking havoc” on the city.
“Enough is enough,” Bottoms said. “You can’t blame this on a police officer. You can’t say this is about criminal justice reform. This is about some people carrying some weapons who shot up a car with an 8-year-old baby in the car. For what?”
Bottoms ordered people, namely those walking around with guns who have been spotted in the vicinity of the Wendy’s, to leave immediately. Shortly after Sunday’s news conference, one person was killed and at least two others were injured in another shooting near the restaurant, WXIA reported.
“We’re not having any more discussions. It’s over,” she said. “If you are looking to be a part of a solution and not a problem, then you’re going to have to clear out of that area."
The Wendy’s where Brooks was killed has become a hot spot for protests, with some demonstrators showing up to the site with long guns and setting up barricades in the street, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Police reportedly cleared the area last month, one day after Brooks’s June 23 funeral, but Bottoms said Sunday that she received word the barriers were back up roughly an hour before she was informed of Secoriea’s death.
Police say Secoriea was riding in a car with her mother and another adult on Saturday night when they attempted to turn into a parking lot of a business across the street from the Wendy’s. The car was then “confronted by a group of armed individuals who had blocked the entrance,” interim police chief Rodney Bryant said during Sunday’s news conference.
“At some point someone in the group opened fire on the vehicle, striking it multiple times, striking the child who was inside,” said Bryant, who condemned the shooting as a “senseless act of violence.”
Secoriea was rushed to a nearby hospital where she later died, he said.
“She died in my arms,” Secoriea’s mother, Charmaine Turner, tearfully told reporters Sunday before she broke down crying and was led out of the news conference by family members.
Officials and Secoriea’s relatives have implored the public to help identify the people involved, who have only been described by police as “a group of black males.” One of the shooters was believed to have been wearing “all black, dressed like a bounty hunter,” while the second was seen in a white T-shirt. A reward for information is now up to $10,000, WAGA reported.
Bottoms called the suspected shooters “cowards,” and urged people to steer clear of non-peaceful demonstrations.
“There are thousands of people who are gathering peacefully to try and effectuate change in this country, and then are those who are wreaking havoc, and they are doing it to the detriment of us all. In this case, it is to the detriment of the life of an 8-year-old child,” she said. “If you are a part of these gatherings that are becoming disruptive and becoming deadly, then on your hands too is the blood of Secoriea Turner.”
In another tweet, Kemp decried the weekend’s violent acts on social media, highlighting the deadly shootings in Atlanta and the vandalism of the Georgia Department of Public Safety headquarters.
“This recent trend of lawlessness is outrageous & unacceptable,” Kemp tweeted. “Georgians, including those in uniform, need to be protected from crime & violence.”
This recent trend of lawlessness is outrageous & unacceptable. Georgians, including those in uniform, need to be protected from crime & violence. While we stand ready to assist local leaders in restoring peace & maintaining order, we won’t hesitate to take action without them. https://t.co/NTacEm4v7o— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) July 6, 2020
On Sunday, Secoriea’s father, Secoriya Williamson, joined officials in rebuking people who have turned to violence during the protests.
“They say black lives matter,” Williamson said. “You killed your own. You killed your own this time.”