ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) -- The family of Secoriea Turner, 8, and their attorneys say justice for her senseless death is long overdue. "My child was supposed to have been here for her brother's birthday. His birthday was June 4. I had to go to her gravesite," said her dad, Secoriey Williamson. "Her life is priceless. We're forced to live by this day by day," said her mom, Charmaine Turner.
The attorneys filed a lawsuit today against the City of Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Police Chief Rodney Bryant and Councilmember Joyce Sheperd. "They failed to take any action to address the reports of crime, the reports of violence and the reports of danger in that area until after it was too late," said Sam Starks, a senior attorney with The Cochran Firm. "This is a lawsuit that is based on a failure of city government at the highest levels."
Armed vigilantes shot and killed Secoriea on July 4, 2020, while she was riding in a vehicle with her mother and her mother's friend. It happened as they attempted to go around a barricade during protests near the Wendy's Restaurant where Atlanta police shot and killed Rayshard Brooks. The lawsuit also holds Wendy's and its property owner University Venture responsible. "The law does not give you the right to own property, to operate a business at that property and then abandon it when you know that there are armed vigilantes there harming citizens," said Harold Spence, a partner with The Davis Bozeman Law Firm. "So many adults who had power, responsibilities, obligations, opportunities to stop this did not," said Shean Williams, a partner with The Cochran Firm. "We have an eight-year-old beautiful little girl whose life was taken before its time, when it could have been avoided."
Attorneys referenced a June 17, 2020 memo from an APD commander, which advised officers would not be overly proactive and they would respond if violence occurs when an officer is present and to victims of violence. "They should have engaged in proactive policing and not just surrender the neighborhood," said Davis Bozeman Law Firm Founding Partner Mawuli Davis. "The evidence shows that the mayor gave specific direction to the police chief and to the police department to stand down," Starks said.
Mayor Bottoms previously responded to accusations of failing to settle this and other cases. "These attorneys know that settlements and litigation takes time. At the point you file a lawsuit or at the point you begin to mediate, it's not an overnight process. It takes time," she said during an October 28, 2020 press conference. "The thing that I can tell you I do take exception to is the notion that I somehow don't personally care. That is wrong."
The attorneys say they want to see that care turn into meaningful action, referencing cities like Minneapolis and Louisville, which they pointed out took quicker action following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. They've asked officials why Atlanta hasn't done the same.
Davis said this is just the first of many civil rights lawsuits they plan file in June.
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