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Atlanta's deadliest year in decades has city on edge and demanding change

Shaddi Abusaid and Christian Boone, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in News & Features

ATLANTA — A teen selling water bottles killed over $10. A young man shot at a skate park. A child gunned down on the Fourth of July.

Their deaths were among the 157 homicides the Atlanta Police Department investigated in 2020, up from 99 in 2019 and the most in more than two decades.

“It’s ridiculous that now, even during this pandemic, we got more gun violence going on than ever before,” said Columbus Ward, a longtime activist who lives in Atlanta’s Peoplestown neighborhood. The year’s violence claimed several victims in his community, including Deborah Houston, 59, shot outside a convenience store on Atlanta Avenue in October and Manvel Buckner, 49, shot on Martin Street in December.

“It’s really scary because you don’t know who’s going to be killed or who’s going to be shot or where those shots are coming from,” Ward said. “It’s just everywhere.”

Indeed, no corner of the city was spared. Kevin Humes, 35, was shot to death in May outside a Buckhead apartment complex. Jalanni Pless, 18, was shot to death in June while selling water in Midtown, the same month Andrew Scott Callahan, 37, was shot near the Historic Fourth Ward Skatepark. Kalecia “Pinky” Williams, 16, was shot in December at a downtown hotel.

Police found the remains of a stabbing victim in the Summerhill area on Christmas Day.

 

The deadly surge has residents and business owners addled while police and city leaders struggle for solutions.

“I’ve never been afraid to get gas or go to the grocery store before,” said Buckhead resident Agie Rutkowski. “Now, if it’s dark outside, I don’t go out.”

Is the mayor to blame?

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was hailed after her response to destructive rioting in May after protests over the death of George Floyd devolved into chaos. Glamour featured her in its Women of the Year issue and her national profile soared amid talk of a position in President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.

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