Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Community seeks solutions, healing after attack on two transgender women

Posted By on Wed, Jun 4, 2014 at 12:15 PM

I think there is a stereotype, theres prejudice around folks that dont fit within a box or who dont look the way society says, says Everette Thompson, an activist for transgender equality.
  • Maggie Lee
  • "I think there is a stereotype, there's prejudice around folks that don't fit within a box or who don't look the way society says," says Everette Thompson, an activist for transgender equality.
In the wake of a MARTA attack that left one transgender woman naked and the unwilling star of a viral video, a group of activists that seeks a safe environment and good policing for all Atlantans is renewing its call, this time on behalf of people like Janell Crosby.

"There's things the community can do, but also there's things we want to put forth ... that the city, MARTA and APD can do," said Everette Thompson of the Solutions not Punishment Coalition, or SNaP Co, ahead of a Tuesday night forum at the Philip Rush Center in Candler Park attended by about 70 people.

Crosby and friend Tyra Woods were victims of an attack captured on cell phone video on May 20 on a MARTA train. SNaP Co, which fights for street-level survival sex workers, with special attention to transgender persons caught in the business, called the MARTA attack a "horrifying display of transphobia and violence."

MARTA Police made no arrests on the scene but have since arrested two men and charged them with disorderly conduct. They've also been suspended from the transit system.

SNaP Co is specifically agitating against any kind of long jail sentence if the charged men are found guilty, preferring restorative justice. Discussion on Tuesday night centered more on how to make all Atlantans, especially transgender persons, feel assured of professional policing and simply welcome in the city and on the train.

"Rather than picking up the cell phone and videotaping it for Worldstar, what can we do?" said Simaya Fogle of Atlanta, one of the attendees at the forum. She and others suggested trans and non-trans solidarity, via a campaign, or training for people who want to help - but don't know how - when they see anti-trans harassment.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Gucci Mane pleads guilty to gun possession charge

Posted By on Wed, May 14, 2014 at 10:29 AM

Gucci Mane, performing in 2010
  • Jason Persse/Wikimedia Commons
  • Gucci Mane, performing in 2010
Rapper Radric Davis, better known as Gucci Mane, pled guilty in federal court yesterday to illegal possession of a firearm by a felon.

The East Atlanta native and Trap House recording artist could have been sentenced to up to 10 years behind bars and a $250,000 fine. However, his lawyer Drew Findling told the AJC that the rapper struck a deal with prosecutors to serve 39 months in federal prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced in July.

Davis was charged after Atlanta Police in September found him wielding a loaded handgun and making threatening comments in southeast Atlanta near Moreland Avenue. Officials say he smelled "strongly of marijuana" and was acting violent. He has reportedly sat in jail since being charged charged last December.

Prosecutors pointed to the 34-year-old rapper's record, which includes convictions ranging from assault and battery to violating probation.

"Davis has a long history of violence and of illegally possessing and using guns," U.S. Attorney Sally Yates said in a statement. "This office will prosecute those who illegally possess especially when they have a history of violence and threaten others with firearms."

The 34-year-old rapper attracted attention last year after openly insulting a number of music industry executives, journalists, and recording artists, including Atlanta natives T.I., Waka Flocka, and 2 Chainz, among several others, in a series of odd tweets. The rapper later claimed his Twitter account had been hacked, adding that he would check into rehab for drug abuse.

ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge Aladino Ortiz said in a statement that the agency will not "tolerate armed violent felons continually terrorizing and reducing the quality of life in the neighborhoods where we live, work, and play." APD Chief George Turner said police will be vigilant in prosecuting people, including Davis, who continue to violate firearm laws. "The arrest and conviction of Radric Davis ensures we are one step close to making Atlanta the safest big city in the nation," he said.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Gunman injures six people, fatally shoots himself at FedEx facility near Cobb County Airport (Update)

Posted By on Tue, Apr 29, 2014 at 5:48 PM

A shooter who allegedly opened fire and injured six people at a Kennesaw FedEx facility has been found dead.

At 5:54 a.m. this morning, hundreds of local authorities from different agencies responded to reports that a gunman had shot and injured a half-dozen people with a shotgun and pistol at a FedEx facility near the Cobb County Airport.

Cobb Police confirmed the suspect was found dead from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Local authorities refrained from revealing the gunman's identity for much of the day. But he was later identified as Geddy Kramer, a 19-year-old baggage handler, by his father. Local authorities do not expect that anyone else was involved with the incident.

Liza Aiken, a FedEx clerk at the facility, told the AJC the shooter had slung bullets around his chest "like Rambo" as he entered the building. "I mean he looked like he was heading into war", she said. "As soon as I saw him, I ran the other way. I ran and made sure that people upstairs were gone. He was in all black. I think he had a camo vest. He had an assault rifle and bullets strapped to his chest."

WSB-TV, who tweeted a photo from the scene of the shooting, reports that six people are currently receiving medical treatment at WellStar Kennestone Hospital. At a press conference, one of the emergency room's doctors said three people remain in critical condition. Two of the shooting victims have "life-threatening" injuries from what he said "appeared to be a shotgun" wound.

Kramer allegedly left behind several explosive devices that police described as "Molotov cocktails." Local authorities managed to clear the facility without further damage caused by the bombs.

Aside from Cobb and Marietta authorities, Georgia State Patrol, Georgia Bureau of Investigations, Federal Bureau of Investigations, and the Department of Homeland Security are helping with the ongoing response. Police officers from Atlanta, Kennesaw, Acworth, Gwinnett County, and Fayette County are also on the ground at the FedEx facility.

Here's another photo of the surrounding area that was under lockdown this morning:

In a statement, a FedEx spokesman Scott Fiedler said the delivery company was "aware of the situation" and has cooperated with local authorities throughout the morning. "Our primary concern is the safety and well being of our team members, first responders and others affected," he said.

FedEx spokeswoman Shea Leordeanu added in another statement: "Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected, and with their families and friends. We are grateful for the assistance of law enforcement. The situation is now stabilized and we are focused on the needs of our team members and cooperating with the law enforcement investigation of this tragedy."

This story is developing. We'll post an update once more information becomes available.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Neighbors, cops, canvas for clues in Adamsville killings

Posted By on Fri, Apr 18, 2014 at 9:45 AM

Atlanta police huddle before heading out to canvas Adamsville, searching for clues in four homicides.
  • Maggie Lee
  • Atlanta police huddle before heading out to canvas Adamsville, searching for clues in four homicides.
On Wednesday night, Belinda Jones, her family, and her friends stood at the edge of the playground at the Adamsville Community Center, watching dozens of Atlanta Police officers organize an evening canvas of the area. They looked for clues in four recent killings, including the one of her son, R.J. Menefee.

"He is gone but not forgotten," said Jones. Her 35-year-old son was shot on Jan. 26 in a home invasion in the apartment complex just beside the southwest Atlanta center.

The police got a call on that January night for a fight with a firearm. While en route, the call was updated to "person shot." Grady Memorial Hospital paramedics pronounced Menefee dead on the scene.

Three additional homicides in March, all in neighborhoods near the center, prompted what the APD calls a "Tactical Neighborhood Canvas." On Wednesday evening, dozens of officers and detectives met to divide up fliers and routes to cover, knock on doors, and ask for clues.

"We've had tremendous success in the past with these canvases," said Capt. Paul Guerrucci, commander of APD's Homicide Unit. "Pretty much every one that we've done has helped us further our investigation one way or another up to and including actual identification of individuals involved."

Menefee, a father of four, "went above and beyond when it came to kids' birthdays, kids on the holidays ... he was all about his kids," said sister Tiffany Jones. He was growing two businesses, she said, a tax preparation firm and a record company.

"Those that knew R.J., if they ever needed anything, he was there," said family friend Cassie Evans.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Got a question about crime? Ask Fulton Chairman John Eaves in an online chat tomorrow

Posted By on Tue, Mar 25, 2014 at 11:18 AM

Fulton County Chairman John Eaves
The conversation about Atlanta's crime, and how to best combat it, will continue tomorrow afternoon with local residents and Fulton's highest ranking elected official.

Fulton County Chairman John Eaves plans to host an online discussion - one that's part of a series of meetings - about the county's public safety efforts. According to the chairman, there's been demand for more events where Atlantans can learn more about what's being done to reduce crime in their communities.

"After a multitude of concerns were expressed by residents, I thought that it was important to find other opportunities to speak directly to constituents about crime and safety," Eaves tells CL.

Earlier this month, Eaves took part in a southwest Atlanta meeting with Atlanta Police Chief George Turner, Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, and other officials. Hundreds of attendees were able to vent about the area's crime and discuss how to make their neighborhoods safer.

After the meeting, Fulton's chairman told CL that he would host additional conversations to continue the dialogue in hopes of coming up with formal policy proposals later this year.

"This is another chance to hear their thoughts on the problems and share with them possible remedies," he says.

To join the conversation, visit Eaves' Facebook page around 1 p.m. and look for an invite on his wall to join the conversation. From there, post all the questions you've been dying to ask the Fulton County chairman.

If you can't participate, fear not: Eaves will also host another "Crime and Safety Summit" at Atlanta Metropolitan State College on April 2 at 6:30 p.m.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Report: Metro Atlanta's underground sex trade is booming

Posted By on Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 2:54 PM

An Urban Institute study finds that Atlanta leads eight US metro areas in value of the underground sex industry.
  • Urban Institute
  • An Urban Institute study finds that Atlanta leads eight US metro areas in "value" of the underground sex industry.

An underworld of illegal sex work has resulted in hundreds of millions spent on street prostitutes, Korean massage parlors, and Mexican brothels in metro Atlanta, according to a new report.

A study published by the Urban Institute yesterday details the size and inner workings of underground sex work and child pornography in eight major U.S. metro regions, including Atlanta. The others included Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, San Diego, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

Atlanta's underground sex economy in 2007 - the last year for which key data is available - was estimated at $290 million and ranked atop the eight-metro list. Georgia's capital was one of only two metro regions to grow rather than shrink compared to its 2003 figures and remained much higher than the region's estimated illegal drug and gun trades.

As Atlanta debates tactics for coping with street prostitution, the report underscores some known factors while debunking others. Both pimps and human traffickers regularly control prostitutes and regularly move some of them through multi-city "circuits." But pimps often keep prostitutes away from alcohol and most drugs and, especially in Atlanta, the sex trade has few ties to organized crime.

Based on stat analysis combined with police and convicted sex worker interviews, the report admits it used limited data, and says it surely underestimates the size of the sex trade. It relies on self-reported anecdotes, like an anonymous cop who claimed "major rappers from Atlanta" pay big bucks to prostitutes to dance in their videos, then have sex afterward.

Still, it provides many details about sex workers' motivations. For metro Atlanta, it paints a grimy picture of sex outlets controlled by various ethnic or national groups, most serving a highly diverse array of male clients.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Southwest Atlanta, South Fulton residents wonder when they'll see much ballyhooed decline in crime

Posted By on Mon, Mar 10, 2014 at 1:30 PM

Neighborhoods in southwest Atlanta and South Fulton are left plagued by horrific violent crime - often committed by the communities' own jobless, hopeless kids - while city leaders focus on fancy downtown stadiums and streetcars.

That was the general sentiment from a frustrated crowd of hundreds last Thursday night at a "Crime and Safety Summit" convened at Cascade United Methodist Church by Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves.

"We've got to acknowledge there's a problem," admitted Eaves, describing a community that realized it's becoming numb to brutal robberies and home invasions. "'Sally got invaded. Bob got invaded.' It's like we've almost accepted it," he said.

A combination of star-studded venting session and king-sized crime watch meeting, the summit let residents talk directly to an official line-up Eaves called "very unprecedented." Panelists included Atlanta Police Chief George Turner, Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, Fulton County D.A. Paul Howard, and several judges and police officials.

The meeting sprawled for more than two hours of horror stories and just about every youth-support and crime-fighting idea ever conceived. Eaves promised to hold more such meetings around the city, and to better coordinate city and county anti-crime efforts. But one thing missing, some attendees noted, was a structure for drilling the issues down to specific action items.

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

How well did Reed actually fare on public safety during his first term?

Posted By on Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 11:44 AM

Atlanta is safer today than it's been in decades. Or at least that's what Mayor Kasim Reed has emphasized over the past year.

Reed has taken credit for much of that crime dip. Under his watch, the mayor says he's grown the size of the Atlanta Police Department's force to more than 2,000 officer positions. He's found funding to install hundreds of surveillance cameras. Now the mayor is talking about addressing recidivism.

Although the mayor's public safety narrative is compelling, not everyone agrees with his approach or results to fighting crime. To see how the numbers stack up, CL recently requested APD crime records for part one offenses - those include violent and property crimes - from both former Mayor Shirley Franklin's final term (2006-2009) and Reed's first four years in office (2010-2013). We've compiled those figures, broken down by crime and APD zones, and embedded them after the break:

Continue reading »

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Reed advisor: Compassion and comprehensive reform can break the cycle of recidivism

Posted By on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 10:15 AM

Last Wednesday, Creative Loafing published a column from the Solutions Not Punishment Coalition, an advocacy group working toward "common sense solutions to public safety and health issues and an end to police profiling and the overuse of incarceration." Their collective opinion came in response to Mayor Kasim Reed's remarks on crime and public safety during his Jan. 6 inauguration speech.

Michael Sterling, one of Reed's senior advisors, wrote an op-ed responding to the coalition's piece.

Last week, I was disappointed to read a column in Creative Loafing mischaracterizing Mayor Kasim Reed's efforts to address incarceration and recidivism in the City of Atlanta. The authors mislead readers on the administration's public safety record and provided no data to support many of their misplaced claims and frustrations. Rather, The Solutions Not Punishment Coalition ("The Coalition") substituted their assumptions for actual facts. The notion that we believe jail beds and longer sentences are the silver bullet for confronting public safety could not be further from the truth.

As the Senior Advisor to Mayor Reed and a former Assistant United States Attorney, I know that safety is a sacred obligation of anyone entrusted to serve the public. Over the last four years, we have made significant strides in reducing crime and creating avenues of opportunity for Atlanta's most vulnerable populations. The Coalition disregarded these efforts and instead attacked our public safety record with opinions that are completely baseless.

In Atlanta, we know that crime's costs can't be addressed with improved policing alone. Contrary to The Coalition's belief that "that the Mayor's only proposal . . . in the next four years was more jail beds and longer sentences", we have worked to make our city more tolerant, and inclusive in an effort to provide an alternative to crime. In addition to "banning the box" on city employment applications, we lead by example in hiring ex-offenders who need a second chance; approximately 10% of new hires under our administration were second-chance employees. As an advocate for practicing the politics of the soft and hard, Mayor Reed discussed the success that re-opening the city's recreation centers have had in helping to reduce teen crime by 25%, and touted his commitment to replacing guns with opportunities. Most notably, he announced an additional six Centers of Hope and an initiative to provide college scholarships for APS students regardless of their financial status. This amounts to much more than jail beds and longer sentences.

The statistics regarding those summarily released from Fulton County Jail, despite multiple convictions, is shocking and the data reveals a pressing issue. Between April-2011 and March-2013, 77% of the individuals arrested and convicted of felonies through the Atlanta APEX Unit received probation sentences despite having an average of 15 previous arrests for crimes ranging from rape to armed robbery. For example, one individual was convicted 34 times over 34 years for crimes including rape, burglary, battery, and more. In November 2013, he received his first serious jail sentence of five years imprisonment. Despite the Coalition's unfounded declarations that these cases don't exist, they do, in fact, exist and it is entirely appropriate for the Mayor to address this as a part of comprehensive reform.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Anthony Holland, dead at 42

Posted By on Mon, Jan 27, 2014 at 2:18 PM

Anthony Holland died the evening of January 8, 2014 on English Avenue.
  • Anthony Holland died the evening of Jan. 8, 2014, on English Avenue.

Throughout 2014, we'll be running stories about victims of gun violence in the city of Atlanta. This is the second.

At Anthony Holland's last known address, the one listed on the police report that described his murder, a man answered a knock on the door by peering between the blinds of a window and yelling, "What do you want?"

When asked if he or anyone at the house knew Anthony Holland, the man said, "I don't know who you're talking about."

When asked in a different way, he simply said, "You have the wrong house," and walked away from the window.

A neighbor, when asked if he had known a man named Anthony Holland who had lived next door to him, replied, "Nah, I don't think I know my neighbors' names."

A block down English Avenue, a cop sat in his idling car, not far from where Holland had been shot two weeks prior. When asked if he knew anything about Anthony Holland, he replied, "The guy that got shot in the back of the head?"

He didn't know Holland, but he offered to search his records for another address. He couldn't find one. Holland had never been in the APD system before that final report.

"Sometimes people just come and go," the cop said.

Holland's family, when contacted through the funeral home that managed his burial, declined to comment about his life.

On, the funeral home hosted a small memorial page for Holland. Among others, Michael Simpson of Atlanta posted a short note:

"It is with great sadness that I write this message. Although I have not spoken with Anthony in many many years, I have very fond memories of him and our interactions as students and friend at John F. Kennedy and B.T. Washington High School. How could I forget those funny jokes and laughter? He was a person of great spirit and attitude. I wish his family the best as they struggle to cope with this seemingly irrecoverable loss. May your faith and love for one another carry you through this time of great sadness.
Our thoughts and prayers are with you!

Booker T. Washington High c/o 89!"

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