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'We had to beg for help for hours and it didn’t happen' | Family of 12-year-old killed near Atlantic Station speaks about night of shooting

One of their main concerns, they said, is how the situation was handled after the crowd of kids was kicked out of Atlantic Station.

ATLANTA — The family of 12-year-old Zyion Charles, who was shot to death Saturday near Atlantic Station, spoke exclusively to 11Alive about what happened that night and the lingering questions they have about how the situation was handled.

One of their main concerns, they said, was how officers didn't step in when asked.

"We had to beg for help for hours and it didn’t happen," Zyion's Aunt Dincia Charles said. "It hurts to know that my sister tried and lost her child, but she’s out here, even in the time that she's grieving to try to help somebody else, so this doesn’t happen to another child or family."

Two days after the shooting, Zyion's mom Deerica appeared at an Atlanta Public Safety Committee meeting, where she called on the city to do more to help kids. She said she had asked police to help her son understand the consequences after he began hanging out with older kids and getting in trouble. However, the family said the officer told her the offense wasn't serious enough to warrant him being held in custody. 

“No matter if your mom is calling, crying out to us – 'We can’t help you or her.' So, for a child that is 12 years old that wants to hear, 'It’s OK to do whatever you want to do' – to hear that coming from authorities and people that is here to serve and protect us, 'Where would that take you as a child?'" Dincia asked. 

Zyion's family said he was at a friend's house Saturday night when they decided to join the about 400 children gathering at Atlantic Station.

“My son got hit by a stray bullet. My son was having a good time at Atlantic Station. He was not bothering anybody, he was being a child. And at the time he was being a child, my son gets hurt,” Deerica said. 

The Charles family questions whether officers could have stayed with the crowd of kids longer, as they were escorted off Atlantic Station's property to make sure the crowd broke up. While police have said they believe people with gang ties were involved in the shooting, the family stresses Zyion was not in a gang.

“People are grieving. The last thing that they want to hear, not just from social media but from (media) outlets, whenever they turn on the TV is that their 12-year-old child something was gang-related because he’s a Black young male,” Dincia said. 

Zyion's family is calling for the reevaluation of a state-run point system that determines whether a juvenile offender is detained or released. Also, if you would like to help the family with funeral arrangements they have set up an online fundraiser.

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