Authorities in Clayton County have beefed up their investigation units and are chipping away at what has become a gruesome to-do list: solving the string of teen murders that have plagued the community in recent months.
Nine young people between the ages of 11 and 19 have died from gun violence since October. Since then, police have closed one case, a murder-suicide involving two teens. Suspects are in custody in three other cases and investigators have good leads on two of the four remaining cases under investigation.
Clayton Police Chief Michael Register told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Thursday he’s hoping a gun recovered in Tennessee could lead to the killers of two Clayton siblings shot to death during a home invasion Oct. 22. Register said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is testing the gun to see if it was used to shoot 15-year-old Daveon Coates and his sister Tatiana, 11.
Register declined to say what type of gun was recovered but said it was retrieved the day after the Coates siblings were killed. It was found after a shootout in Tennessee involving gang members suspected of killing the brother and sister. Those gang members had driven to Clayton looking for another 15-year-old who lived with the Coates family but was not there at the time of the shootings. That 15-year-old is now in protective custody.
“We’re attempting to link that firearm up there to the murders here,” Register said. ” We don’t know if they will be able to but if they can that will be a huge break in the case. We just learned last week that the gun is still being tested for links to the scene.”
Register said the GBI has a “huge backlog” of cases but has assured him it will make this case a priority. Efforts to reach a GBI spokesman were unsuccessful Thursday morning.
The Coates killings is part of spree of homicides involving young people in Clayton between the ages of 11 and 19. Nine have died from gun violence since October. Efforts to reach Riverdale police spokeswoman about the status of the recent double homicide of two teens were unsuccessful.
Register said investigators also are closing to an arrest in the case of Cherish Williams, a Mundy’s Mill High School senior. Williams was sitting with friends in a car at Independence Park in Jonesboro listening to music when she was shot by gunmen in an attempted robbery on New Year’s Eve.
“We’re just trying to finalize that case and hopefully bring charges in the near future on that person,” Register said.
In response to the increased numbers of homicides, Register said he has beefed up his Criminal Investigation Division with more senior officers. During his time as chief, he also has created a homicide unit.
“I think that’s helped,” Register said. “Investigations is a critical part of the process. I want to get the best supervisors and officers down there.”
Register said the gun is “a hopeful break” in the Coates case. “We’re hopeful there’s going to be some linking to the crime and we can take it from there.”
Here’s a list of young people who have died by gun violence in Clayton County between Oct. 3, 2016 and Jan. 13, 2017.
DATE VICTIMS CAUSE OF DEATH CASE STATUS
10/3/16 Sa’Myah Nycole Copeland, 16, Riverdale High School. Shot by ex-boyfriend. Closed
10/3/16 Christopher Andrews, 15, Riverdale H.S. Shot himself after killing ex-girlfriend. Closed
10/22/16 Daveon Lamontay Coates, 15, Mundy’s Mill High School Shot during home invasion. Under investigation
10/22/16 Tatiyana Coates, 11, Pointe South Middle School Shot during home invasion. Under investigation
11/1/16 Cedric Clark, 17, Charles Drew H.S. Found shot in the backyard of a Riverdale home. Suspect arrested
12/29/16 Keyontae Ross, 15, North Clayton H.S. Found shot in the front yard of College Park home. Under investigation
12/31/16 Cherish Williams, 18, Mundy’s Mill H.S. Shot in robbery attempt at a Jonesboro Park. Under investigation
1/13/17 Cameron Woods, 19, Jonesboro H.S. Shot in car in parking lot of Riverdale Walmart. Suspect arrested
1/13/17 India Aaliyah Royal, 18, Shot in car in parking lot of Riverdale Walmart. Suspect arrested
Source: Clayton police and news stories
IN OTHER NEWS: Justin Ross Harris’ ex-wife: 'When you have experienced every parent’s worst nightmare . . .’