For the third straight year, the number of homicides in Atlanta and police shootings across Georgia increased in 2022, according to law enforcement agencies.
The GBI, which typically investigates officer-involved shootings, reported 112 last year, up from 100 in 2021. In 2020, the agency investigated 96 shootings involving officers. The 2022 total is a record high for the agency, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.
The Atlanta Police Department investigated 170 homicides last year, the most since 1996. It marked an increase from 161 in 2021 and 157 in 2020. Last year, Atlanta officers were involved in 13 shootings, more than doubling the 2021 total of six, according to GBI data.
Two days into 2023, the GBI was called to investigate after a Cobb County police officer shot a man who refused to drop a firearm he had pointed at several people, according to investigators.
In Atlanta, quick arrests in two recent high-profile cases were encouraging to police Chief Darin Schierbaum and Mayor Andre Dickens. In a Tuesday press conference, the mayor reiterated that it will take a community effort to end the violence.
“You heard me say this before recently and time again, that Atlanta is a group project and our lives are intertwined as we are all responsible, responsible truly for each other,” Dickens said.
Dickens has joined police leaders in pleading with citizens to end conflicts without weapons, as well as by keeping guns out of the hands of children and teenagers. But when violent crimes are committed, the police department will work tirelessly to find those responsible, Schierbaum said.
“This department will not rest until we bring justice to every family who has lost someone to crime,” he said.
This week, Atlanta police announced an arrest in the shooting that killed an off-duty Fulton County sheriff’s deputy. James Thomas Jr., a 24-year-old Mississippi native, died on Dec. 29 when he was shot while driving on Bolton Road.
Investigators quickly identified a suspect, thanks to tips from other drivers in the area and various cameras, Dickens said. A program called “Connect Atlanta” allows those businesses and residents with security cameras to register them to help investigators in the event of a crime or other emergency.
In 2021, the city set a goal of having 10,000 cameras integrated into the system, Dickens said. That goal was exceeded and city leaders are hopeful the number continues to grow, he said.
It was help from the public that also helped investigators find the man accused of stabbing to death a 77-year-old Buckhead woman in her home on Dec. 10, according to city leaders. Surveillance images released by police helped identify the suspect, 23-year-old Antonio Marquavis Brown, who was in custody within 48 hours.
“Let me very clear to those who would want to do harm in our community, who would want to perpetrate these crimes,” Dickens said when the arrest was announced. “If you pull a gun or pull out a knife in our city to hurt, harm, or kill someone, you will be arrested and sent to jail. We will use all of the tools of the APD and our friends and our partners, every resource we have, to bring to justice criminals who act in this violent way.”
But recent deadly shootings involving teenagers and children have troubled city leaders. Within three weeks, two separate shootings left a 12-year-old and three teenagers dead, according to police.
On Nov. 26, a shooting on the 17th Street bridge in Midtown killed 12-year-old Zyion Charles and 15-year-old boy Cameron Jackson. Investigators have charged three teenagers with murder in that case.
Then on Dec. 17, Investigators believe a fight on social media led to a shootout, killing 14-year-old boy Malik Malik Grover and 16-year-old Justin Powell. A 19-year-old, Montavious Ferguson, was charged with murder in the case late last week.
“I hate being here talking about kids and gunfire,” Atlanta Deputy Chief Charles Hampton said after the second shooting. “We just ask parents to know where your kids are, know what they’re doing. Check rooms. There’s just too many guns in the hands of our youth.”