Mother of teen killed selling water in Atlanta wants the practice banned in the city

ATLANTA — Anyone who has been in Atlanta for any length of time has seen teens and young adults selling bottled water along the streets of the city, but one woman wants them banned.

Tomeka Pless’ 18-year-old son Jalanni was one of the so-called “Water Boys” and was shot and killed last year. Jalanni made ten dollars off of one car, but that’s when another teenager began arguing with him.

Pless says her son offered to split the money with the other teenager, but a short time later, Jalanni was ambushed and shot as he walked to a MARTA station.

“Over $10? Can you comprehend that? No, I don’t understand because he offered the young man half of the $10. But instead of him taking five, he took my baby’s life,” Pless told Channel 2′s Michael Seiden.

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Since Jalanni’s June 2020 death, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Atlanta police and the Atlanta City Council have been working on solutions to the problems created by the “Water Boys.”

Last summer, Mayor Bottoms said she was working with police and community groups on the issue. Earlier this year, police told us that they did not want to arrest the teens, but were considering giving out citations to their parents.

Pless says these actions have fallen short and she’s on a mission to get the “Water Boys” banned from the city.

“I don’t want any other parent to go through what I’m going through, even though it’s been a year,” she said.

In January, she launched an online petition calling on city leaders to institute a permanent ban on teenagers selling bottled water.


One of Pless’ biggest supporters is prison prevention specialist who works with at-risk youth, Myron Fountaine.

“Where’s the parents at? Why aren’t these kids being monitored? Why aren’t they in school?” Fountaine questioned.

Pless and Fountaine are now partnering with supporters of the Buckhead City Movement.

Their plan is to help find and create new opportunities for at-risk children.

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Pless and supporters of the Buckhead City Movement will be holding a news conference Thursday morning to call for that ban.

Channel 2 Action News will bring you all the latest details from that news conference.