Leaders call for change after 7-year-old shot as family drove by mall while Christmas shopping

ATLANTA — Police have identified a 7-year-old who was shot in the head while she riding in a car near Phipps Plaza earlier this week.

Kennedy Maxie remains in critical condition after the shooting on Monday night. Maxie was in a car with her aunt when gunshots rang out. Kennedy’s aunt says she didn’t realize her niece had been hit until a few miles later when she noticed she wasn’t feeling well in the back seat. She rushed her to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite.

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Now several elected officials from North Atlanta are pointing fingers at city hall -- and to some extent at Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms -- about the ride in violence and crime in the area.

Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Richard Belcher says criticism of the city by Buckhead’s political leadership is ramping up.

In a statement Tuesday veteran councilman Howard Shook never mentioned Mayor Bottoms by name but said, “It is obvious that the civilian authorities do not control the streets and cannot provide even a token feeling of safety...”

Again without mentioning the mayor, Shook wrote, “It will take a lot to turn this around. But here….are the three things we need to begin: Leadership; Some leadership; Any leadership.”

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Two others are not quite so blunt, but they leave no doubt they consider the crime surge intolerable.

“I’ve been hearing for some time, Richard, that people are not feeling safe,” Fulton County Commissioner Lee Morris told Belcher.

Morris, who previously served on the Atlanta City Council, represents a portion of Fulton County that includes Buckhead.

The shooting of Kennedy Maxie came just two weeks after a daylight shooting and attempted carjacking at Peachtree and Collier Roads near Piedmont Hospital.

“You just shouldn’t have to worry about driving around in your own city and that you’re going to get shot. I mean this is just nuts,” said Morris.

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City councilman J.P. Matzigkeit is pushing for creation of a privately funded security force that would supplement APD patrols in Buckhead. He told Belcher, “We have to tackle this. I have said that we are at war with crime, and we need to act like it.”

Without calling her name, Matzigkeit suggested that Mayor Bottoms has put too much emphasis on police reform -- especially since the mass protests that hit Atlanta in late May -- followed by the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks. Just three days after Brooks was shot to death following a struggle with an Atlanta policeman, the mayor referred to his death as “murder” and the officer’s use of force as “not justified.” At the time, neither the district attorney’s quick investigation nor the GBI’s much longer investigation of the incident had been completed.

“I don’t think that we’re doing effective policing right now because I don’t think we’re putting enough resources and attention to it like we are with the police reform work that we’re doing. We have to do both,” Matzigkeit said in an interview with Channel 2.

Morris says shortages of police officers have dogged APD since he was on city council in the 1990′s, but like Matzigkeit, he contends too much emphasis is being put on bad cops and not enough on crime control.

“I think society has overreacted,” he told Belcher, who asked if Morris includes in that overreaction the mayor’s response to the Brooks’ case.

“I think it was an unfortunate reaction, and it had some serious morale results in the force. It would be great if the city did what I think is the government’s very first primary obligation, and that is to keep people safe.”

In a statement, Mayor Bottoms said, “We owe it to our children, as well as to all of our communities, to do everything in our power to eliminate gun violence. If there are solutions that we have not explored and enacted, I welcome the suggestions.”

Matzigkeit told Channel 2 he expects important announcements within the next few weeks about private financial donations to the private security force that he calls Buckhead Blue. Matzigkeit estimates such a force employing off-duty APD officers will cost more than $1 million annually, all of it coming from private businesses or individuals.

Information on the shooting of 7-year-old Kennedy can be submitted anonymously to the Crime Stoppers Atlanta tip line at 404-577-TIPS (8477) or online at www.StopCrimeATL.com . Callers do not have to give their name or any identifying information to be eligible for the reward of up to $15,000 for the arrest and indictment of the shooter.