ATLANTA — Atlanta’s homicide count is the highest it’s been in more than two decades following a violent Christmas weekend that left three people dead across the city.
A 16-year-old Atlanta girl was fatally shot inside a downtown hotel room Saturday morning, marking one of the 155 slayings Atlanta police have investigated in 2020, agency spokesman Officer Anthony Grant told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The teen’s shooting was one of three killings that detectives investigated in less than 24 hours as police and city leaders struggle to combat a surge in violent crimes.
Then on Saturday night, a 7-year-old girl who was struck by a stray bullet while shopping with her mother and aunt in Buckhead on Monday died from her injuries.
The last time the city’s homicide count was this high was in 1998, when the department investigated 154 deaths, records show. The Atlanta Police Department investigated 99 homicides in all of 2019.
“I am deeply concerned about the spike that we are seeing in our homicides,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms recently told the AJC, “not just our homicides, but also with our aggravated assaults.”
The deadly holiday period began Christmas morning when officers discovered a man’s body at a southeast Atlanta park. Police responded to the Phoenix II Park in the Summerhill community about 5 a.m. and found the victim with multiple stab wounds, investigators said.
About six hours later, police were called to a home on Byrere Terrace in southwest Atlanta, where officers found an unconscious man with a gunshot wound. He was taken to the hospital, but later died of his injuries.
Authorities haven’t released the identity of either victim, and it’s unclear if they have any suspects.
The teenage girl was killed Saturday morning after being shot by an acquaintance during an argument inside a room at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta on Peachtree Street, according to police.
Officers were called to the hotel about 12:30 a.m. and found the 16-year-old unconscious in the lobby with a gunshot wound to the groin area, Grant said. The girl, later identified as Kalecia Williams of Atlanta, was rushed to the hospital but did not survive.
A teenage boy, also 16, was taken into custody at the scene and interviewed at Atlanta police headquarters. He was charged with felony murder, aggravated assault, reckless conduct and possession of a pistol by someone younger than 18.
It’s still unclear how the two teens knew each other. They were the only people inside the room at the time of the fatal shooting, police said. Investigators have not released the name of the boy charged.
All three slayings remain under investigation.
The violent Christmas period came just days after the shooting of the 7-year-old while shopping in Buckhead. Kennedy Maxie, who lived in Cobb County and attended Sedalia Park Elementary, was shot in the back of the head while riding with her family near Phipps Plaza on Monday evening. Investigators have said their Lexus was not the intended target of the shooting, which stemmed from an argument between several men in the parking lot of Saks Fifth Avenue.
Nobody has been charged in the little’s girl’s shooting, but police are offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to the capture of those responsible.
Her shooting prompted a scathing rebuke from City Councilman Howard Shook, who released a statement Tuesday taking aim at “the administration” over this year’s rise in violence.
“I don’t want to hear the word ‘uptick.’ Stop minimizing our concerns by telling us that ‘crime is up everywhere,'” Shook’s statement said. Both Bottoms and Atlanta police Interim Chief Rodney Bryant have used similar language when discussing the spike in homicides in recent months, although Shook’s statement did not mention either of them by name.
“Spare us from the lie that the steady outflow of our officers isn’t as bad as it is,” Shook’s statement continued. “And please, not another throw-away press conference utterly devoid of game-changing action steps.”
In a response from the mayor’s office, Bottoms said mentioning the surge in violence across the nation is “not an abdication of responsibility, but an acknowledgement of the widespread severity of this issue.”
“While we continue to keep public safety as a top priority, senseless gun violence continues to impact innocent lives,” she said. “If there are solutions that we have not explored and enacted, I welcome the suggestions, as I am always open to making the city that I am raising my children in a safer place for us all.”