ATLANTA — Atlanta's Interim Police Chief Rodney Bryant said he's committed to keeping the city safe after record breaking violence this weekend.
Atlanta Police said 31 people were shot and 5 were killed, including an 8-year-old girl.
Bryant told 11Alive what happened this weekend does not represent the city of Atlanta. He said his officers are frustrated and heartbroken about the crimes in the city and they want to work with the community to change it.
"It is so heart-wrenching for us to lose any life, but to lose the life of an 8-year-old is so tragic because it pulls at the heartstrings of all of us," he said.
Secoriea Turner was shot and killed Saturday when her parents tried to drive through one of them. The shooting happened not far from where Rayshard Brooks was killed by police.
Bryant said the memorial for Brooks stood for weeks at the Wendy's where he was killed because people were going there to pay their respects and mourn his death. But the site often turned violent, with armed citizens putting up illegal barriers for traffic.
"Often in many peaceful protests and demonstration is an underlying culture of people counter to that level of peace," he said. "And they generally hijack and take advantage of that situation. We had people out there peaceful for a number of days. And this culture of violence took over and took advantage of this family and killed this innocent child."
He said Atlanta Police were monitoring the situation there closely, and had already disbanded the agitators once last week before this tragedy.
"Let me be clear about this, once we determined they were blocking the roads, we went in and took those barriers down. So that road had been clear for a number of days," He said. "We had no reported incidents where the road was being blocked. So we addressed that and had no concerns until that day."
"And in all actuality, being that we were monitoring that location, as soon as we had information, again, this was on a busy day, and as soon as we got information that they were putting things in the street, before we could get resources to clear it up, this incident happened," he said.
Bryant said Turner's rocked the department, that has dealt with one crisis after the next for the last month.
"This is a very challenging job. The hardest part is that we've gone from one event to the next to the next. So there's not time for us to actually recover and breathe as a police department. As a police department we have to come in and just grind it out," he said.
He said he's met with every single group that's asked to sit down with him to make change in the community.
Bryant also said they morale has been low for the department. APD confirmed last month that they had been experiencing "a higher than usual number of call outs. However, Bryant said the officers are resilient.
"The men and women who continue to come to work. It has been very challenging. These men and women have had to be out on these protest lines under the worst circumstances where people are spitting on them, throwing rocks at them, they still came back to work. And respond to the community every day. So I am most proud of them," he said.
He said national news headlines that depict Atlanta as violent or unsafe are unfair.
"The city of Atlanta PD is not known for biases or hate, that's not who we are. Even though we have had this spike over the weekend, we have made tremendous strides in terms of reducing the crime in Atlanta. So this narrative that we are anything other than one issue that occurred this weekend, defining the city based on what happened this weekend is a negative narrative," he said.
On Monday, Gov. Brian Kemp, issued a state of emergency to authorize the activation of as many as 1,000 Georgia National Guard troops following the violent holiday weekend.
Bryant said he was not given any advanced notice that Kemp was activating the National Guard, and said he still hasn't spoken with them.
"I thought that it was an interesting move. I was not aware the National Guard would be coming in. I have not had a conversation with them to see what their strategy would be or what their role would be in coming in to the city," he explained.
"We would with GSP on a daily basis as it results to addressing incidents in the metro area. So when the Guards came in, I thought that was interesting and I would like to have a conversation with them to see what their position will be in the city," he said.
He said the department already has plans to keep the city safe and said he's committed to working with any group who wants to meet with him to move the city forward.
"What it requires us to do is get together, have deep conversations, have continuous conversation, to get back in that alignment. The City of Atlanta PD has often times been at peace with the community we serve," he added. "So even though this moment feels like a challenge, I am sure that we will move forward."