A 7-year-old girl is in critical condition after she was struck by a stray bullet while riding in a car in Atlanta's affluent Buckhead neighborhood on Monday, Dec. 21.
Kennedy Maxie, of Mableton, was shot in the head while riding in a Lexus with her mother and aunt near Phipps Plaza after doing some Christmas shopping.
The child's aunt said she heard several gunshots as she drove past Phipps Plaza. She drove on until she realized Kennedy had been hit, and rushed her to Scottish Rite's Children's Hospital.
Police say a fight between two groups of men broke out in the parking lot outside Saks Fifth Avenue. Investigators are reviewing surveillance video for more leads.
Gang bangers from Chicago and other lawless, lockdown cities have poured into Atlanta to take advantage of the city's wide open atmosphere amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
Music producer Jermaine Dupri is among the city's high-profile residents who expressed outrage over the ongoing gun violence. He tweeted that Atlanta police should do more racial profiling to sweep out-of-towners with guns off the city's streets.
"If you really from the A, it's time for us to come together and stop all this shooting shit at Lenox and now Phipps," Dupri tweeted on Christmas Eve. "The police need to get together, the profiling needs to go to code red and I can give a f*ck about y'all getting mad about me saying this. lil kids getting shot is wack."
At a press conference on Tuesday, interim Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant said "social gatherings" at Buckhead's Lenox Square Mall and Phipps Plaza are attracting more criminals with guns.
"It is very concerning," Bryant told reporters. "Part of that is the proliferation of weapons that we are seeing on the streets... This is unique to what we have had in the past."
Atlanta police have investigated 150 shootings in Atlanta this year. At least 8 shootings have occurred at Lenox Square Mall and Phipps Plaza since December 2019.
"It's very, very sad," said Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore. "It's just unbelievable the level of gun violence that we're seeing."
City Councilman Howard Shook blasted Atlanta's city leadership in a statement, calling the child's shooting the "latest and most painful example of the utter lawlessness that defines what it means to live in Atlanta."
"It will take a lot to turn this around," he continued. "But here, in descending order, are the three things we need to begin: 1). Leadership; 2). Some Leadership; 3). Any leadership."
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms defended her administration's efforts to curb the crime wave caused by out-of-towners.
"This is a challenging time in Atlanta and across our country," Bottoms said. "While we continue to keep public safety as a top priority, senseless gun violence continues to impact innocent lives, like that of the precious 7-year-old girl who was struck by a stray bullet (Monday) night. We owe it to our children, as well as to all of our communities, to do everything in our power to eliminate gun violence."
Simon Properties, which owns both Lenox Square Mall and Phipps Plaza across the street, promised to install metal detectors at Lenox Square Mall entrances and hire police dogs to sniff out guns concealed on shoppers.
No plans were announced for Phipps Plaza, which is considered the more affluent of the two malls. Phipps is the main destination for lawbreakers because shoppers include celebrities, pro athletes, trust fund kids and other high-wage earners.
A GofundMe page has raised over $42,000 for the family. Additionally, a $15,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest of the gunman.