Secoriea Turner is an 8-year-old Atlanta girl who was shot and killed as she sat inside a car near the Wendy’s parking lot that has been the subject of unrest since the death of Rayshard Brooks in a police shooting.
The child’s death shifted the mayor’s narrative from focus on the police to focus on community violence. At least five other children were also shot and killed across the United States in recent days.
“I want to see the same anger and outrage,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a press conference. Bottoms has been mentioned repeatedly as a possible vice presidential choice for Democrat Joe Biden. “I want to see it on behalf of Secoriea, and all of the other children who are getting shot in our streets. There’s a lot of change that has to happen across this country, and police reform is a big part of it, but we also have to reform our own community. An 8-year-old girl was killed last night because her mother was riding down the street.”
The child’s distraught parents were at the heartbreaking press conference in which her mother broke down emotionally.
“They say Black Lives Matter,” the girl’s father, Secoriya Williamson, said in the news conference. “You killed your own. You killed your own this time just because of a barrier. They killed my baby because she crossed a barrier and made a U turn. You killed a child. She didn’t do nothing to nobody. You killed an 8-year-old child. She didn’t do anything to any one of you all. She just wanted to get home to see her cousins. That’s all she wanted to do.”
The suspects are at large, and their identities are not yet publicly known.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Mayor Declared ‘Enough Is Enough,’ Calling the Shooters ‘Cowards’ & Saying That ‘These Aren’t Police Officers Shooting People on the Streets of Atlanta’
Bottoms and Interim Chief Rodney Bryant gave a press conference to speak about the 8-year-old child, who was murdered over the July 4 holiday weekend. The child’s distraught mother sat in a chair during the press conference. (Bryant became chief when the former police chief resigned in the wake of Brooks’ shooting death. After the Brooks shooting, the mayor focused her ire on the police department, telling CNN, “While there may be debate as to whether this was an appropriate use of deadly force, I firmly believe that there is a distinction between what you can do and what you should do.” Critics have said the charges have harmed morale on the Atlanta force.)
“The last few press conferences I have given have been regarding challenges that we have had with interactions with our police officers and with our community. The last being the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks,” the mayor began after Turner died. “Secoriea Turner was shot and killed last night. That was not by the hands of a police officer. By the hands of a coward. Cowards. Who are still out and about in our community. This happened at University and Pryor near the Wendy’s where Rayshard Brooks was killed a few weeks ago.”
The mayor continued that the community “talked a lot about what we are demanding from our officers and our community. We’ve protested. We’ve demonstrated. We’ve been angry, cried; we’ve demanded action. Now, we’re demanding action for Secoriea Turner. And for all of the other people who were shot in Atlanta last night and over the past few weeks because the reality is this, these aren’t police officers shooting people on the streets of Atlanta. These are members of the community shooting at each other, and this is the worst possible outcome.”
She said there were also two other people shot and killed the night before in Atlanta and declared, “enough is enough.”
“We have talked about this movement happening across America,” she said, adding that the Civil Rights Movement operated against a “defined common enemy.”
“We’re finding the enemy within when we are shooting each other up on our streets, and shot and killed a baby,” she said. “There were at least two shooters…and if you want people to take us seriously, and you don’t want us to lose this movement, then we can’t lose each other in this, and there are peaceful demonstrators across this city and country, and I applaud them and thank them for being peaceful and for honoring the lives of so many people who have been killed in America because of injustice.” But, she said, “this wild wild west shoot ’em up because you can – it’s got to stop.”
Bottoms continued: “You can’t blame this on a police officer. You can’t say this is about criminal justice reform. This is about people carrying weapons who shot up a car with an 8 year old baby in the car. For what. It’s simple. We’ve got to stop this. We are doing each other more harm than any police officer on this force. We’ve had over 75 shootings in this city over the past several weeks. You can’t blame that on APD. So I am just asking to please honor this baby’s life. Please if you know who did this, please turn them in. These people are a danger to all of us.”
The mayor pointed out that Brooks, who died close by at the Wendy’s parking lot, talked about wanting to get home for his daughter’s 8th birthday.
2. The Car Carrying the Child Was Confronted by a Group of Armed Individuals While Trying to Turn Into a Parking Lot
At around 9:50 p.m., officers learned that the child had been taken to the hospital. She did not survive her injuries.
The preliminary investigation indicates she was riding in a vehicle with her mother and adult friend when they exited the Interstate to University Avenue, the interim police chief said in the news conference. They were riding on I-75/85 and exited onto University Avenue.
The car carrying the girl was attempting to enter the parking lot when the driver was confronted by a group of armed individuals who had blocked the entrance. Someone opened fire multiple times, striking the child. The driver drove to the medical center for help. Investigators are working to determine the circumstances around the shooting. Bryant called it a “senseless act of violence… an innocent child lost her life and this can not be tolerated in the city of Atlanta.”
He said: “We have to do a better job as a community, as a police department.” He ensured the mother that police would work “diligently to bring these perpetrators to justice.”
On the same night, people tried to burn down the Georgia State Patrol building and the 911 system was flooded, Bottoms said. She said there was no mass police sickout that night, but resources get stretched thin when so much is happening at once. “There was a time to go, and there is a time to pull back,” she said of protests that start to go south and turn into riots or other problematic behavior, urging people to not participate when they do so.
3. The Girl’s Mother Says She Would Have Been on Tiktok Dancing if She Wasn’t Shot & Declared ‘We’re Innocent’
The child’s distraught mother, Charmaine Turner, took the microphone during the press conference but broke down emotionally shortly thereafter.
“She was only 8 years old… She would have been on TikTok dancing, in her phone. Just got finished eating. We understand the frustration of Rayshard Brooks. We understand. We don’t have anything to do with it. We’re innocent. We didn’t mean no harm. My baby didn’t mean any harm. Somebody knows something,” she said.
Another family member pleaded with the public to call CrimeStoppers or Atlanta homicide. “We are pleading with you to come forward with this,” she said. “Please, we beg you. Please. Please. Let’s bring this to justice.” She called Secoriea her 8 year old beautiful niece who “got taken away, over nothing.”
The protesters who have been at the Wendy’s memorial for Brooks said in a recorded video that their team of community members, neighbors, and activists extended their “deepest condolences and sympathy” to the family and friends of Turner. They go by the name “RB Memorial Sleep-In Activists.”
“We too mourn the loss of the young life,” said the group’s spokesperson, Lady A. Lady A said they were standing with the family. According to Lady A, “no one from our group was involved in any way in the shooting,” and it didn’t take place at the site of the memorial. Lady A said they have cooperated with the local authorities investigating the shooting, which occurred “near” the memorial site. The spokesperson unequivocally denounced any “biased media that connects us to this killing.” They are calling for a peace center at the Wendy’s location.
4. Brooks Was Shot & Killed by an Atlanta Police Officer in the Nearby Wendy’s Parking Lot & the Mayor Said People Put Removed Barriers Back Up
Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed by Atlanta Police Officer Garrett Rolfe during a stop for suspected OWI. Brooks struggled with officers and then disarmed an officer of his taser and fired it, prompting Rolfe to shoot and kill him in the parking lot, authorities have said. Rolfe has since been charged with murder.
Since that time, the Wendy’s has seen unrest. It was set on fire. People have been openly carrying weapons at University and Pryor but, the mayor said, “the reality is this. Georgia is an open carry state. They can walk around with weapons this long down our street because the law in Georgia says they can do it.”
She added: “You have people walking down the street with weapons this long because Georgia law says it’s OK.”
Following the death of Rayshard Brooks, she said, “there have been a number of protests in the area, and there have been challenges with the streets being closed off. The day after the funeral of Rayshard Brooks, we went into the area and removed the barriers or so we thought. Last night, some people put the barriers back up. I received notice 45 minutes to an hour that the barriers were back up before I received the message that little Secoriea had been shot and killed.”
On July 6, the city was “cleaning up,” the Wendy’s parking lot where Brooks died, according to AJC.
5. Shootings, Including of Children, Have Spiked in Many Cities Throughout the Country
Many major cities across the country are seeing serious spikes in violent crime in the wake of the unrest that sparked over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Children in other cities have also been shot and killed.
In Chicago, 87 people were shot, 17 fatally, over the Fourth of July weekend. Among them: A 7-year-old, Natalie Wallace. According to ABC 7, the Chicago child “was visiting her grandmother’s home for a family gathering when she was shot and killed” while playing outside. A car pulled out and three suspects opened fire.
“To see my daughter on the table with a gunshot wound to the forehead, that will change somebody’s life,” said Natalie’s father Nathan Wallace during a press conference. A 14 year old boy was also shot to death in Atlanta.
An 11 year old boy, Davon McNeal, in Washington DC was shot and killed while running to get a phone charger, according to CNN. Royta Giles Jr., 8, was killed in a shooting at an Alabama mall, adding to the recent death toll across the country.
A 6-year-old boy was shot and killed in San Francisco but has yet to be named.