Athens saw a rash of gang-related shootings

copyright Richard S. Lawson

Athens-Clarke County police have investigated 15 gang-related shooting incidents since the start of the year, according to spokesman Epifanio Rodriguez. Two people have been injured in the violence so far, and bullets have damaged cars and homes in neighborhoods, mobile home parks, apartment complexes and shopping centers all over town.

Rodriguez said the incidents involved members and associates of the Bloods and Crips. The department is making headway in quelling the violence — 10 suspects have been arrested — but investigators said the accused can account for just six of the shootings.

Since mid-March, the shootings have come in rapid succession, highlighted by a late afternoon parking-lot shootout at the Willowood Square shopping center off Lexington Road on March 30. Individuals fired at each other from across the parking lot, and bystanders saw suspects running from the scene holding pistols with extended clips. There were no injuries, but five cars were damaged by gunfire. Police found 14 shell casings, indicating several individuals were involved.

After learning suspects headed to The Oaks apartments on Gaines School Road, police arrested Damari Jones and Mortavius Crew, both 18, on charges of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during commission of a crime. According to court records, both Jones and Crew bonded out of jail and have no previous arrests on their record.

The gunplay at Willowood was in response to shots fired with no injuries earlier that afternoon at Spring Valley Mobile Home Park. A car involved in the shooting was stopped by police soon after, leading to the discovery of four guns and the arrests of Ladaryan Thrasher and Jarvis Clark, both 18. Warrants were issued for two other suspects — Terique Eberhart, 19, and Raydreone Howard, 18 — who have since been arrested.

The four suspects remain behind bars, with Howard, Clark and Thrasher denied bond. All face charges of aggravated assault, with Thrasher and Clark facing additional charges of reckless conduct, possession of a firearm during commission of a crime and theft by receiving stolen property.

Two teenagers suffered non-life-threatening gunshot wounds on March 18 during a shooting at Bethel Midtown Village. When police arrived, they found shell casings in the breezeways between apartments, and later learned about the injured teens arriving at the hospital with gunshot wounds. Warrants were issued for Jamir James, 24, and Miquan Pittard, 18, on aggravated assault charges, and both were arrested days later. Both bonded out, with Pittard now under house arrest.

Another man, Quintellis Smith, 21, was charged with aggravated assault and parole violation, with police noting his arrest was tied to the shooting at Bethel. Smith made news in 2015 when he was charged with aggravated assault and aggravated battery against another teenager for “depriving [the victim] of the use of his brain,” according to the Clarke County Superior Court indictment. A video of the attack showed Smith knocking out the victim with two “haymakers” to the head, then punching him again while he was on the ground unconscious. Smith pleaded guilty to two felony charges and was sentenced to 15 years—three in confinement and the remainder on probation. He was released from prison earlier this year.

Of the 10 arrested, three others join Smith in being charged with offenses in the past, including Eberhart (affray and disorderly conduct in 2016), Howard (affray and disorderly conduct in 2016; theft by taking and shoplifting in 2017) and James (simple battery and family violence in 2017).

Additional arrests in recent drive-by shootings are possible, police said. Other drive-bys were reported Apr. 19 at Rivers Edge Apartments on West Broad Street, April 10 on Burkland Drive, Mar. 26 on Highland Park Drive, March 25 on Bailey Road, March 21 on Sunny Hills Court and March 10 on Johnson Drive and at Athens Gardens Apartments on the Eastside

Anyone with anonymous tips can call the Crime Stoppers confidential tip line at 706-705-4665.