EAST POINT, Ga. — East Point’s police chief is urging gun owners to take a look at gun deaths in his city right now, and then realize how volatile arguments with family and friends can be.
So far in 2022, 100% of the gun deaths in East Point have been committed by friends, loved ones, and acquaintances of the victims in arguments and disputes that, the chief said Wednesday, could have been solved without gunfire.
Chief Shawn Buchanan posted his plea in an open letter on the department’s Facebook page, on Wednesday.
“We're seeing friends, family and loved ones being killed by friends, family and loved ones,” he told 11Alive. “That's a very tragic situation. We want people to start thinking before they act, and use some de-escalation techniques.”
According to Buchanan, so far this year in East Point, overall crime is down, but homicides are up. There have been 13 shooting deaths, so far.
Police are not looking for any suspects, as they’re all, already, in jail, according to Buchanan, because in every single case, shooter and victim knew each other and the crimes were easily solved.
“From my investigation, every one of these homicides could have been avoided just with cooler heads, if they had prevailed,” Buchanan said. “And it's very disheartening to a police officer who puts their life on the line to save lives, to see that those lives are otherwise being taken by friends, family and loved ones...We put this letter out to the community because our officers out on the streets don't want this type of crime happening in our city and they don't want friends and loved ones to take each other's life.”
A nationwide study of the homicides in which investigators were able to identify whether there was a relationship between killer and victim found that in 2020, 79% of the killers knew their victims—and most of the homicides involved guns.
In Washington, the focus is mostly on mass shootings, as Congress considers new gun safety laws.
On Wednesday, families of the victims of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, testified, and so did survivors--including Miah Cerrillo, a 4th grader at Robb Elementary--pleading for action.
“He shot my friend that was next to me,” Miah said, “and I thought he was gonna come back... I grabbed the blood and I put it all over me” in order to play dead, and save her own life.
As Congress seeks bipartisan agreement at the Capitol, Chief Buchanan said that, in East Point, he is focused not on issues involving gun access, but instead on urging responsible gun ownership.
“Hot tempers and guns don’t mix,” Buchanan said. “Think before you act. There’s no do-over card. Once you pull that trigger, that bullet will never come back.”
The Chief said part of responsible gun ownership is training, including de-escalation training, to solve confrontations without needing to open fire.
“Walk away,” he said, “walk away and save a life. Responsible gun ownership is what we really need to push, because that is the key. The majority of gun owners never use their gun. It's the irresponsible gun ownership that concerns us.”