May 4, 2023

Atlanta Officials Hold Press Conference After Arrest of Shooting Suspect Transcript

Atlanta Officials Hold Press Conference After Arrest of Shooting Suspect Transcript
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Officials in Atlanta, Georgia, held a press conference following the arrest of a suspect in a mass shooting Wednesday. Read the transcript here.

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Mayor Andre Dickens (00:00):

I’d also like to thank our law enforcement partners from across this region. As you see standing behind me and with me today are the police chief of Cobb County, as well as the Fulton County Sheriff, as well as our APD Police Chief, as well as our Fire Rescue Chief Chief Smith. I want to thank also our local college police offices and also our Atlanta Public Schools Police Office, as well as neighboring jurisdictions, the state of Georgia and the federal government that has all chipped in on this support today. We also have strong coordination with our fire and rescue and emergency medical personnel. Last but not least, we must thank our E 911 operators who spent the day fielding calls as we tracked this suspect.

I am pleased to share with you that thanks to our strong partnership with Cobb County Police Department, law enforcement have taken the suspect into custody. Thanks to the highly-trained police officers across our region, we are able to bring this suspect into custody without further harm. He will be charged and stand trial for his crimes. Not only did law enforcement bring this man into custody, they also kept our community safe during an enormously tense afternoon and evening. I want to thank our citizens for keeping calm, staying in place and for providing critical information to law enforcement throughout the day. Now I’m going to turn it over to law enforcement to share an update, and I’ll return to share a few additional remarks later. Now I’ll turn it over to APD Police Chief, Darin Schierbaum.

Darin Schierbaum (01:56):

Thank you, mayor. I want to thank the members of the press for being here this evening. You all have played an important role today as we kept citizens both in Atlanta and Cobb County informed, asked for their assistance as we sought the apprehension of this very dangerous perpetrator. Thank you for returning tonight to, again, update those of our various communities. The mayor spoke today of a capable, competent, and brave response by the first responder network that served not only this city, but this region. I just want the men and women of the Atlanta Police Department to know those that are in our 911 center, our first responding officers, our tactical teams our investigators how proud yet again, I am of you of the work that you have done today on behalf of this city. In the most dire of circumstances. You have shown what you do daily for the men and women that call this city home and those that visit here.

But if you look closely, on the earliest views from the crime scene, you saw not only the Atlanta Police Department responding, you saw a network of officers representing multiple agencies who have trained for this various outcome, Mr. Mayor over and over again, that a day that this tragedy should befall the city that we would be ready. I stand here today to tell you that the first responder network was there today for their city. The Sheriff of Fulton County, Sheriff Labat, the Georgia State Patrol, the MARTA Police Department, Georgia Tech Police Department, Georgia State University, Marshals, they were all on scene quickly executing their active shooter protocol to stop the situation, and then very shortly we were joined by the GBI, the FBI, the Secret Service, as well as United States Marshal Service as we sought to bring this person into custody. That investigation soon showed us that this perpetrator had left the city and remained a threat elsewhere.

Sheriff VanHoozer, I just want you to know that we are a grateful city tonight for your partnership and the efforts of your law enforcement agency to take this individual into custody. Then this morning we celebrated the bravery of Atlanta Fire Rescue not far from here as their annual commemoration of Firefighters Day; to see the paramedics and firefighters when we did not know where the shooter was, that could easily have still been in the building around the corner, to see our firefighters dismount their trucks and Chief Smith go into that situation. But it wasn’t the first time I’ve seen that chief because we had seen that in training over and over again. Today when it was necessary to save lives, we were very proud to see you, a strong partnership as we moved into that dangerous situation, and thank you. At this time, I’m going to ask our Deputy Chief of Criminal Investigations, Charles Hampton, to come forward to recap what has transpired today, what we have learned from the investigation, and then Chief and VanHoozer will come forward to outline how his department led to the capture of this perpetrator today. Chief?

Chief Hampton (04:41):

Good evening. What we do know, we know that shortly before noon the subject entered into 1110 West Peachtree Street and went to a medical center inside the building. It was shortly thereafter that he shot our first victim and then the first 911 call came after that. He spent about maybe two minutes inside the building where he then exited on foot. What we were able to pick up on the camera network system is that he went to a Shell gas station where he commandeered a vehicle. That car was a pickup truck, was left running unattended, and he took that vehicle. We were able to, again, use video to obtain a tag and immediately place that tag into our LPR system, our license plate reader system. So at that time, we had to really do some work to figure out where he was at.

There was a series of search warrants drafted both here in Atlanta and Cobb County because we were getting information of residents and other locations that he may go to, so that was done as well. Then roughly around 12:30, we received an alert from the LPR system that he was in Cobb County. So that, again, we were on the phone immediately with Cobb to let them know that this individual was somewhere in this jurisdiction. As chief said, we’ll then let Chief VanHoozer just talk about what happened in his jurisdiction. But I will tell you that although we may not have known exactly where he was, as soon as we were alerted that he was out of our area responsibility, we contacted that local jurisdiction and that coordination took place. Chief?

Stuart VanHoozer (06:40):

Good evening. My name is Stuart VanHoozer. I’m the police chief in Cobb County just north of Atlanta. First of all, I want to very much express our collective condolences to the families involved and know that me personally and I’m sure collectively from all of those who were involved in today’s incident that our prayers and thoughts are with the families that have been affected by this. Of course, we saw what was going on on the news. We had heard through our networks of what was going on in Atlanta when we discovered that the individual had last been identified on a Flock LPR camera in our jurisdiction. Of course, we sent officers to that area and set up not so much a perimeter, but we began to look for the vehicle. I will be honest with you, first of all, let me apologize in advance. I have not prepared a statement. I have not had time to prepare a statement, so what I’m giving you guys is not planned. I will probably make a few mistakes, and I’ll probably forget to thank some people. But what I can tell you is this.

These are massively complex investigations and information comes in so quickly and it is so confusing and so contradicting that we find that we are often trying to go three or four different places very quickly, each seeming to be the suspect, and so that was what was happening today. It was a fairly chaotic scene. We were being called to various locations in that area about what appeared to be legitimate sightings of this individual. There was some fear, of course, in the citizens in that area, of course, so our officers were responding to those calls. I will say this, if you rewind the hand of time four years, we probably would not be where we are today right now. Technology played a huge role, but technology doesn’t do any good without people who are determined to capture an individual that would do something like this. Today we saw where those two things came together in an amazing way. Nobody went home today, everybody stayed. We have a fairly new Real-Time Crime Center by a local company named Fusus. Flock is a fairly new company. It’s a local company as well.

We have partnered with both of those companies and they have brought us some amazing tools, as has the other jurisdictions in the Atlanta area. Those tools are what really got us the clues that we needed to make this successful, and the people that were getting those clues from that technology made this happen. So we had a lot of clues, enough clues from both our Real-Time Crime Center and Flock to have a pretty good instinct on the calls that were coming in. We had checked a building that we knew that he had gone into, and we had cleared that building, and we knew that he was not in that building. That building was unoccupied. It was being built. It was very close to Truist Park and the Battery, which of course, was very concerning to us as that’s many, many, many people would be in that location. So we were concerned about the safety of our community in general, but particularly that one.

So the operators in our Real-Time Crime Center were fielding many of these calls and looking at them and trying to determine which ones seemed legitimate and which ones did not. Most of that is a little bit of gut, but it was also based on some of the things that we were seeing on the map and what made sense to the Real-Time operators. One Real-Time operator in particular saw a 911 call come in, literally said, “I think this is going to be him,” and that it was mostly instinct, but a lot of it did have to do with where this call was coming in and where this individual was supposed to be. That Real-Time operator communicated with the 911 operator that was in the command center with us. We prioritized that call on the radio. We had some officers, both undercover and uniformed officers, I believe, if I have my facts correct, that an undercover officer was the one that originally saw and confronted this individual and was able to then have backup from uniform officers that came in and took him into custody without incident.

I would forget, and I will forget some of the people and organizations to thank, but I can reiterate what Mayor Dickens and Chief Schierbaum said, and there’s no reason to really go back into all of it. But I can tell you that it does not work without a cooperative community, a community that backs up the police, that allows the police to take risks and try to take violent people into custody. We have a very, very supportive community in Cobb County, a very supportive, elected official group and very supportive leadership, and that’s very, very important for us. We had great community members who were calling us and giving us information. We have a 911 center who has shared their data with us. We have a DOT that gave us information and access to cameras that we did not have previously, and those cameras proved extremely helpful today. That is where we got the precise location of the building that he walked into.

So the amazing cooperation between many that you would not really consider a public safety agency like the Department of Transportation and all the public safety agencies in Cobb County, the city’s GSP helped us with overwatch and with a helicopter, it’s just you can’t really thank people without missing someone. But hats off to everybody who was involved in this and all of the foundation of the technology that was laid. Lastly, I’ll have to say that the communication between agencies in metro Atlanta has probably never been this good, especially particularly from the Atlanta Police Department, incredible outreach with Chief Schierbaum and the whole team here. We were here just last week learning things from the Atlanta Police Department. So thank you to everyone who was involved in this. We are, of course, honored to have been a part of it, and thank everyone who was involved. Thank you.

Mayor Andre Dickens (13:33):

Thank you very much, chief. Thank you, chief, and thank you again to all of our partners here in law enforcement for their cooperation and professional work today. As you can see, this is a group project. This took multiple jurisdictions working together, highly-trained officers who not only found this suspect, but brought him into custody to stand trial. So thanks to the professional and trained law enforcement in our region. This is a instance where justice is the case of the day, but that doesn’t change the fact that one woman died, and there are four more in the hospital just a few blocks away from here fighting for their lives. I want to thank Grady, Grady Hospital. The care that they’ve given immediately to those four individuals, those four women are now on the mend. That’s because of the outstanding work by our trauma center and those medical professionals at Grady.

So we need to talk about the shooting that happened today. This was a horrible act of gun violence, but equally horrifying is that we know that this is not unique in our country. In 2023 alone, there have been nearly 200 reported instances of mass shootings in America. We have taken extraordinary measures in Atlanta to bring down violent crime in this city. We’ve enhanced our policing. We’ve invested in non-policing activities that make our city safer. We’ve invested in the root causes of crime at the same time that we’re cracking down on repeat offenders who commit violence in our community. Those measures have produced great results. Before today, we were down 26% in violent crimes across our city. Those are not just stats, those are real people, real people who are not going to be victims of violence. But we know there is more that needs to be done. But what more can we do as a city?

What more can we do as a community, as a state or as a nation? We have a national epidemic on gun violence in America, and we have a serious problem with how we are treating mental health in this nation. One thing we know is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Other nations have challenges with mental health, but they don’t seem to have nearly the level of gun violence that we do in America. So it’s the guns that we’re talking about. We live in a state and in a nation where people have easy and wide access to firearms that are used to kill other fellow Americans. We need immediate action that meets the urgency of this crisis. We need universal background checks, and we need to close the gun purchase loop holes. We need better red flag laws that allow judges to remove guns from people who pose risks.

We need to do everything we can to ensure that folks who shouldn’t have guns can’t get them. There’s a lot of talk about Second Amendment rights. We need more actions about the rights of our citizens to go about their lives, to be able to go to a doctor’s office, to a supermarket, to a gas station, or to their school without the threat of being gunned down. We all need to do our part to stop these horrific acts from happening again and again. So you will be hearing more from me on this, but today we are grateful for the women and men who brought this to a close, the team of people that back up the team of people that you see standing here. Our prayers are with the victims and with the families that were injured or killed today. With that, I am happy to take your questions.

Speaker 5 (17:48):

Mayor Dickens, there has been an extraordinary decrease in the homicide rate in Atlanta, but events like this, particularly when there’s lots of national media attention cause people to think that crime in Atlanta is increasing. How do you address that for perceptual mismatch?

Mayor Andre Dickens (18:08):

Yeah, thank you for that, for clearly stating that violent crime is down in Atlanta. Homicides are down 40 something percent up until this very moment, I don’t know what the stat is now after today, but violent crime is down in Atlanta. So the perception may be because of this mass shooting, that crime is all over the place, but the truth of the matter is it’s down, and so reality is reality. The numbers show that it’s down, but we still can’t rest on that. We have to do policing activities, more police training, more police patrolling. But we also have to do non-policing activities like making sure people have good jobs, making sure that individuals, our youth, have youth opportunities, after school programs, summer employment, making sure that we invest in our young people, but also do anti-violence training, deescalation training, helping people to resolve conflicts and to get rid of the gang leaders, illegal guns as well as illegal drug sales.

So all of that is a part of our ongoing collaboration with the City of Atlanta, APD, as well as our federal partners, our state and local partners, Georgia State Patrol, as well as our Fulton County Sheriff, Cobb County, as well as our DA. So all of us are working together on those things to fight gangs, guns and drugs, but also those things that are just related to making sure people are healthy and have opportunities.

Speaker 5 (19:42):

Mayor Dickens … Do you have a question? Just one quick question. I know that there’s been members of your city’s SWAT team that have been proactive and going out to some businesses and helped train employees. But in light of the world we’re living in now, is there any talk among yourself and city leaders about possibly trying to form a partnership with the Atlanta business community and your police department to work on drills and things like that? ‘Cause obviously this is the world we’re living in.

Mayor Andre Dickens (20:15):

Yeah, unfortunately, just like we have fire drills and tornado drills, active shooting drills are becoming a necessity. As a matter of fact, and Chief VanHoozer can talk about this, I think there was a active shooter training, a drill going on near Battery Park by a business in that area today as we were closing in on this suspect together. So it is very important that businesses take this serious. My cabinet, our leadership, we’ve had active shooter training of what to do, how to get out of the situation and how to maintain a level head in the instance.

This also requires us to have professional training so that when police officers and firefighters encounter an active shooting situation, that it’s not the first time they are being prepared on that. So that’s why we have to make sure that we have adequate training, and our adequate training includes during cadet school, but also ongoing training that these officers and personnel have over and over annually to make sure that they’re prepared for instances such as this or instances such as what you saw last week at a gas station on Moreland and Memorial or on and on and on across this nation.

Speaker 5 (21:34):

I know this is an ongoing investigation, but do we know there’s been reports that the suspect was suffering some type of mental health episode? Have you guys been able to confirm that and also do you know if the firearm he was using was contained legally or if you can [inaudible 00:21:51]

Mayor Andre Dickens (21:51):

Chief Hampton, you want to talk to that?

Chief Hampton (21:53):

Again, as you know, most of my statements is all that is still under an investigation. We won’t talk about any mental health that the subject may or may not had. We have the firearm and we’ll be running any checks on that to see if it was stolen, if it was legally purchased, so we haven’t-

Speaker 6 (22:13):

Can you say what the weapon was? [inaudible 00:22:17]

Chief Hampton (22:17):

I will not. I will say it was a handgun.

Speaker 7 (22:18):

So there’s a lot of unknowns right now in terms of the suspect, what you can release, but a lot of people want to know why he was there. If you guys have learned any information about why he was there, possible motives, if he was familiar with any of the victims, what have you learned about the suspect since getting him in custody?

Chief Hampton (22:36):

Okay. What I will share, we know that he had an appointment at the facility and again, why he did what he did, all that is still under investigation. Just remember, again, we have families first time that they are hearing some of this stuff is right now, and so we want to be respectful of them and what they’re going through. Then we also still have a trial that we have to put forth, so a lot of that information we won’t release at this time, but we do know that he was there for an appointment.

Speaker 7 (23:06):

Any update on the victims?

Chief Hampton (23:09):

Right now, we still know that they’re in critical but stable condition right now.

Speaker 6 (23:14):

Did you have any contact with the family of the shooter or, I know you can’t say his name, but did the family talk to the police about what was going on?

Chief Hampton (23:25):

Yes, we spoke with the family. They have been cooperative with our investigation and have been extremely helpful.

Speaker 6 (23:31):

What did they say to you?

Chief Hampton (23:33):

Again, all that is still under investigation, and so I’m not going into exactly what they said.

Speaker 5 (23:38):

Was the suspect’s mother phone location at any point today?

Chief Hampton (23:42):


Speaker 7 (23:43):

Sometimes in these situations, family members can help investigators. Were they instrumental in helping at all in this …

Chief Hampton (23:51):

Extremely. Again, they provided key information to help us further our investigation and again, to lead in a successful conclusion.

Speaker 5 (23:59):

Did they help you with how he received the gun or how they got the gun?

Chief Hampton (24:05):

Again, that’s still under investigation, and won’t release any of that information at this time.

Speaker 5 (24:11):

Mayor Dickens-

Speaker 8 (24:12):

Last question for the mayor.

Speaker 5 (24:12):

… question for you. For many people in Atlanta who we talk to this has put a fear in their hearts. What does the bar look like? What does moving forward for the city look like?

Mayor Andre Dickens (24:22):

Yeah. So right now, we’ve had a successful end to a traumatic day. Today is a day that we can go home and rest easy that the individual that calls harm in our community is under arrest thanks to this great partnership with Cobb County, Fulton County, City of Atlanta, Georgia State Patrol, and all of these great partners. So I hope that the city, the region rests easy that he’s in custody, but I also hope that we stay vigilant to continue to look at a future where individuals that shouldn’t have a gun in possession, won’t have one, and also that individuals will be brought to justice and also that we deal with these things that are mental health or easy access to guns.

So tonight, I hope that we rest easy, rest easier, knowing that he is in custody and it’s all happened all in one day from around noon and then before the sun was set, he was in handcuffs with Cobb County. He’ll be brought to Fulton County to stand trial, and he’s alive to be able to stand trial. That shows the professionalism and the great training of all law enforcement in this region. Thank you all.

Speaker 8 (25:41):

[inaudible 00:25:42] want to recognize [inaudible 00:25:43]

Mayor Andre Dickens (25:42):

Oh, yeah. Good. Yes, Madam DA is here who will be the one that will make sure that this individual stands trial in accord with the statutes of our laws. Thank you, Madam DA, for being here. Did you want to make any comments? Well, thank you, Madam DA, and thank you all, partners, Cobb County, Fulton County Sheriff, of course, Atlanta Police Department, Chief Schierbaum and Atlanta Fire Rescue Department. Thank you all, oh, and of course, Grady.

Speaker 5 (26:24):

[inaudible 00:26:24] question, is your video system integrated with the Atlanta Police Department [inaudible 00:26:39]

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