A 7-year-old girl was shot and critically wounded Dec. 21 in Buckhead while riding in a vehicle past the Phipps Plaza mall, according to the Atlanta Police Department. A $10,000 reward is being offered in the case.
According to APD, the victim’s aunt said she, the victim and the victim’s mother were driving past the mall at 3500 Peachtree Road around 9 p.m. when she heard several gunshots. She continued driving and a short time later “noticed that the victim was acting strangely,” according to APD. She realized the child had been shot.
She drove the child to a hospital. The child remains in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the back of the head, according to APD.
At a Dec. 22 press conference, APD commanders said a group of males had a “dispute” in the mall’s parking lot at the time of the shooting. But investigators had not confirmed that the gunfire came from that incident. Investigators said they do not believe the shooter or shooters intended to hit the vehicle or the victim, who is from Mableton, or had any connection with them. However, the investigation was continuing. The bullet that hit the child entered the vehicle from the rear, investigators said.
Investigators expect to soon release mall surveillance video images of the people involved in the parking lot dispute.
“I am confident that we will have a resolution to this shooting and we will bring the individuals to justice as this continues to unfold,” Interim Police Chief Rodney Bryant said at the press conference.
Crime Stoppers of Greater Atlanta, with support from the local nonprofit the Buckhead Coalition, is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and indictment of a suspect in the shooting. Anyone with information can see the Crime Stoppers website.
The shooting comes amid a wave of gun violence that led the neighboring Lenox Square mall to add metal detectors and gun-sniffing dogs, and to the creation of a “Buckhead Security Plan” by government officials and private organizations.
The rise in shootings and some other types of crime has escalated political tensions between the neighborhood’s community leaders and the administration of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms over public safety policy, in part leading to renewed talk of separate cityhood for Buckhead. Among the political factors was Bottoms’ response to the June police killing of Rayshard Brooks in Peoplestown, which led to the resignation of locally popular Police Chief Erika Shields and involved a temporary tolerance of armed protesters near the shooting site. That tolerance ended with another shooting of a child in a passing vehicle, as 8-year-old Secoriea Turner was shot to death in that area.
Update: This story has been extensively updated with further information from the Atlanta Police Department.