A 12-year-old is dead and five other teenagers are in hospital recovering from gunshot wounds after a dispute near Atlantic Station on Saturday night, according to the Atlanta Police Department.
The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the 12-year-old victim as Zyion Charles.
The shootings were reported around 8 p.m. during the height of evening holiday events and shopping at the busy Midtown retail center.
According to APD, the shooting happened after Atlantic Station security and off-duty Atlanta officers escorted a group of juveniles off the property for violating the shopping center’s curfew policy for those under 18.
The group then went to the 17th Street bridge where a dispute occurred and shots were fired, according to APD Homicide Commander Germain Dearlove.
“APD and EMS immediately responded to an altercation within a group that led to shots being fired with possible injuries,” a spokeswoman for Atlantic Station said in a statement. “Atlantic Station Security is working with APD on this matter and has indicated there is no active threat to the property. The community’s safety continues to be our top priority, and we are working closely with law enforcement during this active investigation.”
During a Sunday afternoon press conference on the 17th Street bridge, Mayor Andre Dickens said three handguns used in the incident had been recovered. He also said one of the wounded teenagers remains in critical condition at Grady Hospital.
Dickens said the dispute involved students from Atlanta Public Schools (APS) and those from Cobb County and South Fulton County.
APD Chief Darin Schierbaum said the youths knew each other and had been involved in an ongoing dispute. “Some of the individuals are known to APD,” the chief said, nothing that arrest warrants would be forthcoming.
Both Dickens, Schierbaum and APS Superintendent Lisa Herring urged parents to help them end the violence in Atlanta.
“Know where your child is at all times,” Dickens said. “Use the tracking on their cell phones to know where your children are, know what the curfews are, talk to the parents of your children’s friends.”
Schierbaum reiterated that the majority of gun violence issues are personal disputes that escalate into weapons being used.
“APD can’t be parents,” Schierbaum said. “Please know where your children are. Know if your child has a gun or access to one.”
Herring said making Atlanta a safe place to live is a “group project,” and said APS personnel are available if children and parents need support. “We want to support parents in need,” she said. “Let us assist you.”
Dickens noted there have been few violent incidents at other shopping centers like Lenox Square, Phipps Plaza, and Ponce City Market in recent months.
The mayor said there had been a reduction in youth crime thanks to programs like Midnight Basketball and the city’s summer job program for youths.
“The vast majority of homicides in the city are happening between acquaintances, friends, and family,” Dickens said “Corporations, parents, schools, APD and everyone in between is going to have to work together to bring down gun violence in the community.”
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.