Protesters at Atlanta mayor’s town hall demand answers in officer-involved shooting

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Protesters at Atlanta mayor’s town hall demand answers in officer-involved shooting

photo by EMILY HANEY / [email protected] Emily Haney/[email protected]

photo by EMILY HANEY / [email protected] Emily Haney/[email protected]

photo by EMILY HANEY / [email protected] Emily Haney/[email protected]

by Raisa Habersham, AJC

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Roughly 20 people were escorted out of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ second town hall meeting Tuesday evening as they protested the death of a 21-year-old at the hands of an officer.

Moments after Atlanta police Chief Erika Shields took to the podium, the crowd erupted into chants and demanded answers in the death of Jimmy Atchison, who was shot and killed in January by Officer Sung Kim.

“Why is Officer Kim still on the force?” one protester shouted. Protesters continued for about three minutes before officers swarmed the crowd and escorted them out of Cascade United Methodist Church.

Shields told residents at the meeting that she and Bottoms met with Atchison’s family Monday and apologized for the lack of communication from the department.

“Sometimes when you screw up the best thing you can do is fix it moving forward,” Shields said about the lack of communication.

Photo: Emily Haney/[email protected]

On Jan. 22, Atchison, a father of two, was shot by investigator Sung Kim as he hid in a closet, unarmed, according to witnesses. Atchison, wanted for an alleged armed robbery of a cellphone, had fled to a friend’s apartment in northwest Atlanta after heavily armed task force members appeared at his door. Authorities have not said what prompted the shooting.

Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Kim was assigned to a federal fugitive task force at the time of the shooting. He remains on paid administrative duty and stripped of police powers pending the outcome of the investigations into his conduct.

It is still unclear why Kim shot and killed Atchison. But Shields reassured the crowd: “There is no cover-up.”

The FBI is investigating the shooting. The Fulton County district attorney’s office also launched an investigation into the shooting.

Kim joined the Atlanta Police Department in 1993, and he has been the subject of two citizen complaints, neither sustained, and six internal investigations, including the Atchison case, according to his personnel file.

Protester Dominic Brown, 33, said he and other activists had contacted Shields and Bottoms for answers concerning the case, but never received a response.

“We came out not to disrupt, but to bring awareness to a situation that was being ignored by the city,” he told the AJC.

The uproar raised the concern about policing in Southwest Atlanta and black communities, which are often victimized by officer-involved shootings. Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people, according to online database Mapping Police Violence.

Shields assured residents they were not being overlooked when it came to the city’s policing efforts.

“It won’t happen under my watch,” she said. “I will fight to the bitter end to make sure people are treated fairly and equitably. You have my word”

Striking a more relaxed tone than Bottoms’ first town hall in Buckhead, many of the residents’ issues focused on beautification efforts in the city, road conditions and affordable housing.

Brown stayed at the meeting after the protest and commended the Bottoms’ administration for their recent efforts in improving southwest Atlanta, but would like to see improved transparency efforts.

“A lot of people feel they don’t get answers to things,” he said.

Real estate broker Charles Lawrence praised the city’s latest efforts citing the open checkbook — an online portal that allows residents to track the city’s spending — but he is worried about affordable housing.

“It’s going to be a big challenge especially with how it relates to schools,” Lawrence said.

Staff writer Christian Boone contributed to this article. 

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