GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. -- He was a young man, an innocent bystander, who was randomly shot and killed outside his apartment.
Now his parents and sister are blaming not only the accused shooters, who are facing murder charges, but they're also suing -- the apartment complex.
The parents and sister of Kevin Pierre, who was 22 when he was shot and killed at Bradford Gwinnett Townhome apartments, filed the lawsuit this week against the complex management and owners. The family says that management has been trying to cover up crime at the complex, and had not been warning Pierre or other residents about it. And that cover-up, they say, put Pierre unwittingly in the line of fire.
It was April 13, 2014, when Kevin Pierre (he would have turned 23 in August) was outside his apartment.
And nearby, police say, two men who Pierre didn't know suddenly got into an argument with some other people, and started shooting wildly.
A stray bullet struck Pierre in the back, and he died.
"He was an innocent victim," said the family's attorney, Matt Stoddard, Wednesday. "He was a student at Georgia Gwinnett College, and he was a good kid."
Stoddard, of The Stoddard Firm in Atlanta, researched Gwinnett County police reports, and said he discovered that the Bradford Gwinnett apartment complex has been a dangerous place for years.
"There is a strong history of assaults, forced entries into people's apartments, drug dealing, trespassing, gun shots going off. And it's right next to a school," Beaver Ridge Elementary School on Beaver Ruin Rd.
But, he said, the complex has consistently failed to warn residents and prospective residents about the dangers, and hasn't done enough to prevent crime there.
"The first thing that they should do is provide everybody with that information. And some folks might say, 'I don't want to live here.'"
He has sued other apartment complexes over the same accusations of negligence, and won.
"And oftentimes we'll find that after the lawsuit is filed, changes are made" to increase safety at the complexes. "Police are called out to the complex by the management company and asked, 'What can we do to try to stop this stuff?' Sometimes you'll even see neighboring complexes become scared, based on a lawsuit, and they will make changes. So the lawsuits do have an impact.... I've chosen to practice law in this area in order to try to make apartment complexes safer for the residents."
Just last year, 11Alive News talked with frightened residents of Bradford Gwinnett apartments when police were investigating a case of multiple rapes, there.
"I have children, I have a daughter, so my kids are staying in the house, we are not unlocking our doors, it's just sad. It's scary and it's really sad," said one resident through her partially-opened door.
Stoddard said the complex management should be spreading the word to all residents about crimes at the complex.
"But oftentimes, what you find is apartment complexes have a lot of information, and don't share it with their residents.... This apartment complex, where [Kevin Pierre] lived for a short time before his death and where he did die, knew about an incredible amount of crime that was happening there, and failed to warn residents about it, and didn't act reasonably in trying to protect them from it and deter future crime."
If there is that much crime there, wouldn't residents know about it anyway?
"I think that would be a fair point to make if someone had lived there for an extended period of time," Stoddard said. "When they only live there for three, six months prior to an event, they might not know about all of the crime," and residents of apartment complexes often don't know about crimes that happen in other parts of the complexes, especially if management does not notify them.
11Alive News has not yet been able to reach the owners and managers of Bradford Gwinnett apartments for comment.
The lawsuit asks for unspecified, punitive damages.
Stoddard said prospective residents of housing complexes need to question management closely about crime there.
"Ask questions about crime, and try to get better answers than 'Ask the police.' Because I'll tell you that the complexes do know what's happening there."
On April 24, Gwinnett County Police charged two men in the homicide of Kevin Pierre.
They arrested Sherwin Johnson, 34. He is charged with aggravated assault and felony murder. Johnson is in the Gwinnett County Jail.
Police are still looking for the other suspect. He is Quinton Hall, 29. He, too, is charged with aggravated assault and felony murder.
There is a reward of up to $2,000 for anyone who can help police locate Hall.
Gwinnett County Police Homicide Detectives