Prominent Atlanta leader shot, killed in yard

ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action News has learned that the prominent individual shot and killed Saturday evening is the well-known civil and civic leader Barney Simms.

Simms joined the Atlanta Housing Authority in August 2002 after years as a community and civic leader in the city.

Simms served as chairman of several organizations, including the Fulton County DFCS Advisory Board, and the Andrew and Walter Young Family YMCA.

He was the longtime leader of Atlanta’s License Review Board, which handles alcohol licensing in the city.

Witnesses say they heard gunshots at 4 p.m. Saturday on Connally Drive in southwest Atlanta.

"I live on the next street over. I was sitting in the back. I heard two shots that's it, I didn't know what they was," Russell Rowden said.

Police said they were the gunshots that killed Simms, who was the president of the neighborhood association.

Police found Simms dead in his yard, his door unlocked and his black Lexus gone.

Police have yet to make any arrests in the homicide.

Yvonne Davis, a friend of the victim, said Simms touched many lives.

"I mean he was very active civically and politically and, you know, he retired from the Atlanta Housing Authority. He taught at Perimeter College. He was on the board of Atlanta's Victim Assistance. He was once on the board of the Atlanta license and review board," Davis said.

Popular radio personality remembers Barney Simms

V103 radio personality Ryan Cameron had a conversation with Barney Simms 14 years ago that led to a leadership academy for young people that focuses on academic development and life skills.

"So I started the Ryan Cameron Leadership Academy kind of on his suggestion. He even gave us our first group of students. So it was kind of like he's always been involved with the youth as long as I've known him," Cameron said.

When Cameron heard someone killed his friend Simms, he and his family took the news hard.

"Just a real gentleman. We just can't believe that somebody would take his life like that, because he just seemed like such a giving person," Cameron said, "It's just tragic. It's just a tragic thing."

City leaders remember Berney Simms

Atlanta City Council member Keisha Lance Bottoms also released the following statement:

"I am simply heartbroken by the senseless killing of Barney Simms. As an active and gracious leader of the Bonnybrook community, there was no task, too big or too small, that he engaged in to make his neighborhood, and city, a better place. From donning t-shirts and jeans to pick up trash and cut brush alongside his neighbors, to wearing the finest suit to meet with leaders who could be held accountable for change, he epitomized the active engagement and leadership we wish for in all of our neighborhoods.  Southwest Atlanta has truly lost a pillar of this community."

“We haven’t overcome the shock,” said Hattie Dorsey, the founder and former president of the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, who has known Simms for decades.

They shared a common cause around issues like affordable housing and neighborhood development.

“He had a strong voice on behalf of his neighborhood, community and the whole of Atlanta’s underprivileged  population and demonstrated that concern by working with the Atlanta Housing Authority for many years. His voice, personality and all that he was as a friend will be missed by many of us. You can’t do everything, but he tried to make a dent,” Dorsey said.

Brenda J. Muhammad, executive director of Atlanta Victim Assistance, said of Simms, “He was a friend and like a brother.”

Simms served as chairman of the board of the organization.

“It’s so, so sad that the chair (of) an organization that serves victims of crime, ultimately has become one. I hope his death is a clarion call that we’ve got to do something about the violence that plagues our community.”