ATLANTA – Georgia's governor on Monday declared a state of emergency and authorized the activation of up to 1,000 National Guard troops after a weekend of violence in Atlanta left five people dead, including an 8-year-old girl.
A statement from Gov. Brian Kemp’s office says troops will provide support at certain locations including the Capitol and governor’s mansion, freeing up state law enforcement resources to patrol other areas.
“Peaceful protests were hijacked by criminals with a dangerous, destructive agenda. Now, innocent Georgians are being targeted, shot, and left for dead,” the Republican governor said. “This lawlessness must be stopped and order restored in our capital city.”
Saturday night's fatal shooting of Secoriea Turner, 8, prompted a $10,000 reward for information as authorities searched for at least two people who opened fire on the car she was riding in near a flashpoint of recent protests.
Officers returned to the scene late Sunday to investigate another shooting, steps away from where Secoriea was shot, that left one person dead at the scene and two others injured.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms called for justice in Secoriea's death during an emotional news conference Sunday with the girl's grief-stricken mother.
“You can't blame this on a police officer,” the mayor said. “You can’t say this about criminal justice reform. This is about some people carrying some weapons who shot up a car with an 8-year-old baby in the car for what?”
“Enough is enough,” Bottoms, who is Black, continued. “If you want people to take us seriously and you don’t want us to lose this movement, we can’t lose each other.”
The killing happened near the Wendy’s restaurant where a Black man, Rayshard Brooks, was killed by a white police officer June 12. The fast food outlet was later burned, and the area has since become a site for frequent demonstrations against police brutality.
Earlier Monday, Atlanta police helped as sanitation crews cleared the area around the torched Wendy’s. Flowers and memorials to Brooks, as well as posters with messages protesting police brutality, were cleared away.
Secoriea was slain during a particularly violent night in Atlanta on Saturday. Kemp’s office said that over thirty people were wounded by gunfire, including five dead, over the holiday weekend.
Kemp addressed the shootings on social media on Sunday night, saying the “recent trend of lawlessness is outrageous and unacceptable.”
“Georgians, including those in uniform, need to be protected from crime and violence,” Kemp tweeted. “While we stand ready to assist local leaders in restoring peace and maintaining order, we won’t hesitate to take action without them.”
The order says the declaration of a state of emergency is justified by “unlawful assemblage, violence, overt threats of violence, disruption of the peace and tranquility of this state and danger existing to persons and property.” The order is to remain in effect until at least July 13.
Authorities said Secoriea was in the car with her mother and another adult when the driver tried to drive through illegally placed barricades to get to a parking lot in the area. Armed individuals blocking the entrance opened fire on the vehicle, striking it multiple times and killing the child, police said.
“She was only 8 years old,” said her mother, Charmaine Turner. “She would have been on Tik Tok dancing on her phone, just got done eating. We understand the frustration of Rayshard Brooks. We didn’t have anything to do with that. We’re innocent. My baby didn’t mean no harm.”
The girl just wanted to get home to see her cousins, said her father, Secoriya Williamson.
“They say Black lives matter,” he said. “You killed your own.”
A 53-year-old man was also fatally shot over the weekend near the restaurant, Kemp noted.
“At that location, city officials have failed to quell ongoing violence with armed individuals threatening citizens, shooting at passersby, blocking streets, destroying local businesses, and defying orders to disperse,” his order says.
The governor also cited vandalism at the Georgia Department of Public Safety headquarters early Sunday. The order says several dozen people “armed with rocks, spray paint, and fireworks” broke windows and tried to set fire to the building.
A spokesman for Bottoms didn't immediately respond to requests for comment about the governor’s authorization of Guard troops.
In Washington, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany lamented at Monday's news briefing that she was not asked by reporters about weekend killings in Atlanta and other major U.S. cities. McEnany said she was asked “probably 12 questions about the Confederate flag" and was dismayed that she did not get one about the weekend shootings. She also said comments by Secoriea's father “broke my heart."
Associated Press writer Kate Brumback contributed to this report.