(ATLANTA) — The parents of an 8-year-old girl who was fatally shot last year near an Atlanta fast-food restaurant — where, days earlier, a white police officer shot and killed a Black man — filed a lawsuit on Monday against Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and other city leaders, claiming they allowed armed vigilantes to roam the streets and tying the child’s death to their alleged negligence.
The lawsuit was filed in Fulton County State Court by Charmaine Turner and Secoriey Williamson, the parents of Secoriea Turner, who was killed July 4, 2020, while riding in a car with her mother and encountering a group of armed protesters blocking a street near a Wendy’s that was torched during demonstrations over the police officer killing of Rayshard Brooks.
“Secoriea should be here. None of what we’re doing will ever bring our baby back. Her life is priceless,” Turner said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit. “We deserve justice. Someone needs to be held accountable.”
Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant, Atlanta City Council member Joyce Sheperd and Wendy’s International.
“There is no dispute that this little girl was innocent — that this family was innocent,” attorney Shean Williams of The Cochran Firm said during Monday’s news conference. “Did nothing wrong. On their way home, and they lost their little one.”
Following the June 12, 2020, police officer shooting of 27-year-old Brooks after he was found passed out in his car in the drive-thru window lane, city government leaders, the lawsuit alleges, “were negligent in their duties by failing to remove armed vigilantes who had gathered alongside peaceful protesters at the Wendy’s where Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed.”
In the wake of Brooks’ death, the Wendy’s where he was shot was torched, and protesters set up camp for days in the parking lot, refusing to move.
At the time of Secoriea’s death, Atlanta police said the girl was in a car with her mother and a friend of her mom when they came upon a makeshift barricade near the Wendy’s and were turned away by armed men. Police said Secoriea’s mother was trying to drive around the barricade when at least one gunman opened fire on the vehicle and a bullet hit Secoriea.
Julian Conley, 20, was arrested and charged with felony murder and two counts of aggravated assault. He has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.
Conley’s defense attorney, Jackie Patterson, claimed that while Conley was armed and among a crowd peacefully protesting Brooks’ death, he did not shoot the girl.
Police suspect others were involved in the shooting, but only Conley has been charged.
Neither Bottoms nor other city leaders named in the lawsuit commented on the legal action.
“The murder of Secoriea Turner, as a result of senseless gun violence, is a tragedy that no family should have to endure,” a spokesperson for the city said in a statement. “Due to the anticipated litigation, the City will offer no further comment, at this time.”
Previously, a day after Secoriea’s death, Bottoms held an emotional news conference demanding justice for the girl and slamming her killers as “cowards.”
Representatives for Wendy’s did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.
After protesters took over the Wendy’s parking lot in the aftermath of Brooks’ death, Bottoms publicly said she planned to have police clear the site.
But according to the lawsuit, weeks passed and at least two other shootings occurred near the Wendy’s, one on June 19, 2020, and another on June 20, 2020, prompting some demonstrators to arm themselves.
Despite the violence, Bottoms allowed Sheperd, whose district encompasses the area, to attempt to negotiate with the protesters in hopes they would leave the property, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that Bottoms, Sheperd and the police chief failed to protect the city’s residents and “directly and proximately led to Secoriea’s death, which was foreseeable and avoidable.”
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