ATLANTA — The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has been called in to look into whether a school resource officer was justified in shooting a mom after she allegedly brought a gun on campus.
This happened outside of Booker T. Washington High School's campus Wednesday. Atlanta Police and Atlanta Public Schools (APS) Police were called to investigate, and several patrol vehicles were seen in the area after school's 3:30 p.m. dismissal.
11Alive Legal Analyst Page Pate said having a gun on school campus is a felony unless you have a carry permit.
"If you have a carry permit right now, you can have a gun on school property as long as you keep it in your car. But if you take the gun out of your car, if you have it with you, and certainly if you take it out and brandish it or pointed at someone, then that is a misdemeanor and could be a more serious charge depending upon what you're doing with the gun," he said.
The mom is now charged with:
- Obstructing a Law Enforcement Officer with Violence
- Disrupting Public School
- Carrying/Possession of Firearm on School Property
- Aggravated Assault
- Cruelty to Children
- Contributing to Delinquency of a Minor
APS said she refused to put the gun down, leading a school resource officer to shoot her in the hand.
“Having a gun is one crime but pointing a gun at someone else can be aggravated assault," Pate explained.
A woman who said she's the mom's sister claims she was trying to defend her child after another parent said she was going to shoot the teen. Pate said a self-defense claim would be difficult to prove.
"You certainly can't be the aggressor with a firearm," Page added. "The key question is: 'At the time, was that gun pulled out and used?', Did the person using it have a reasonable belief that they were about to be shot or someone nearby was about to be shot?'"
This comes at a time when we're seeing a sharp rise in violence. APS is one of a handful of metro districts that has its own police department. APS' includes a chief of police, six supervisors, three investigators, and 55 school resource officers.
Kevin Angell is a board member and instructor for the Georgia Alliance of School Resource Officers and Educators. He said there are no set hours of training needed in Georgia to become an SRO.
"The SRO decisions are typically made by the sheriff or the police chief in that jurisdiction or a Board of Education, police chief or police department, from the Sheriff's Office perspective," he explained.
In the 2018 to 2019 school year, high schools in the district saw a total of 161 violent incidents. In the 2021 to 2022 school year, that number was already at 100 by December – in one semester alone.
"Thankfully, this wasn't an active shooter situation," Angell said. "But when we look back at active shootings or school shootings for the last almost 100 years now, we know that they're only going to last minutes. So in this case, having an SRO on campus that was able to be there in seconds, if not minutes, is really important. It appears that they tried to verbally de-escalate this and try not to have to use that level of force. And that really goes to credit their training."
APS said they have found 31 weapons since the school year began in August.
“I think a lot of credit goes to APS in this situation, made several attempts to de-escalate this situation before having to use force," Angell added.
The woman's family is contesting law enforcement's account, saying she dropped the weapon, but the officer still shot her.