Police in Atlanta, Georgia say a 17-year-old who was shot by the owner of a vehicle he was attempting to steal on Thursday night was already on their radar for a string of carjackings in the city in recent months.
The 17-year-old’s identity has not been released, but according to authorities he had several outstanding warrants for his arrest for multiple carjackings and will be taken into custody once he’s released from the hospital.
The shooting happened just before midnight at a Texaco gas station on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Peyton Place.
According to the Atlanta Police Department, the 17-year-old victim was shot in the midsection.
Investigators say the teenager might have been trying to steal a vehicle or get into an unlocked vehicle to steal whatever’s inside.
Police believe the owner of the vehicle fired shots at the teen and then drove away.
Based on the scant reporting to date, it’s too early to tell if this was a justifiable shooting or not. Under Georgia law someone “may permissibly, acting under fears of a reasonable man, kill to prevent commission of a felony in defense of habitation, property, or person.” Whether the shooting is ultimately ruled justifiable or not may hinge on the value of the vehicle that was targeted by the teen. Carjacking is a felony-level offense, but if the teen was trying to steal the car without the use of force then theft of property is the more applicable charge, and it can be either a misdemeanor or felony depending on how much the property in question is worth. If the value of the vehicle is less than $5,000 then it’s a misdemeanor, but anything above that amount is a felony offense.
Sadly, this isn’t the only case of a teen doing something criminally stupid and getting shot as a result that I’ve run across today. In Fort Worth, Texas, a 14-year-old was shot and killed as he was attempting to break in to a woman’s home.
Just before 3 a.m. Thursday, officers were dispatched to a woman’s 911 call of an attempted burglary. Officers responded and then left to finish the report.
A short time later, the same woman made a second 911 call stating the burglar was back.
Fort Worth police responded again. This time, they found a teenage boy with a gunshot wound to the chest lying on the ground. Police say the female caller shot the teenager, who died on scene.
Thursday afternoon, the apartment was quiet. Two bullet holes were seen on the front wall.
Detectives say the renter had reported break-ins or attempted break-ins prior to Thursday.
Authorities haven’t said if the teen had any previous run-ins with the law, but there was apparently some concern about his behavior beforehand. FOX 4 in Dallas/Fort Worth reports the 14-year-old was supposed to have a mentoring session with local activist Durwyn Lamb at the teen’s middle school on Thursday.
Lamb has multiple community youth programs in North Texas where he shares his previous life experiences to hopefully guide children and teens on the right path.
Just before Lamb was about to leave for the middle school, he received a text from the boy’s teacher saying he’d been shot and killed.
“Today was just like, dang. I just… I wasn’t expecting that,” he said. “Even though I expect that, unfortunately, in the community and the culture, I wasn’t expecting that today. And that hurt me.”
It’s a terrible situation all around, honestly. While the homeowner may very well have been justified in using lethal force against a stranger trying to break into her home in the middle of the night, I’m sure it’s still traumatic for her to have taken a life; especially to find out someone so young was attempting to gain entry to her home with her inside.
Juvenile crime has climbed sharply since 2020, though there are signs that the violent crime rate is falling this year along with adult offenses. Still, there are far too many cases of young offenders engaging in extremely reckless and violent behavior; from armed robberies to carjackings. In Washington, D.C. this week authorities announced the arrests of ten juveniles who they say were part of two carjacking rings. U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves says juveniles are responsible for a disproportionate number of these types of crimes.
“In a prior press conference, I noticed that in our experience, it is uncommon for a defendant to commit just one robbery or one carjacking and never commit either offense again, absent a subsequent arrest,” said Graves. “The allegations in cases like these are why we hold this belief. I also previously noted that a majority of the individuals arrested for robberies and a super majority of individuals arrested for carjackings are juveniles. I previously explained that I have instructed our career supervisors to strongly consider prosecuting juveniles as adults when they are involved in a series of armed carjackings or armed robberies. These are not the impetuous crimes of a child who temporarily lost control. They are the calculated crime of someone willing to hold a gun to someone’s head for life for money or property.”
We’re failing to rehabilitate many of these juveniles, and we aren’t incarcerating them either. For too many young offenders, an arrest comes with few consequences, and may give them the false impression that no one is taking their crimes seriously. That might be the case for some judges and prosecutors, but it can be a very different story when it comes to their intended victims, especially those willing and able to defend themselves when necessary.