ATLANTA — The mother of the 12-year-old boy who died Saturday night near Atlantic Station, when a shooting broke out among a group of youths, described her feeling of helplessness as her son slipped into a pattern of dangerous behavior during emotional remarks to a City Council committee this week.
Deerica Charles, the mom of Zyion Charles, said she "called everybody I could" to try to get her son back on a safe path - even the police.
"I tried," she said in tearful comments to the Atlanta City Council Public Safety Committee. "I called police on my son... I called the police several times, I said could y'all please lock my son up, lock him up so he can know how it feels to be set down, please."
"They told me no, we cannot help you," she added.
APD confirmed they believe the shooting was gang-related. However, the 12-year-old's family have said they don't believe he was part of a gang.
At a vigil over the weekend, the boy's aunt, Dinecia Charles, said he was "just a child wanting to have fun with other kids," a bystander in the incident who "was not the target" and "did not hurt anyone."
“Even if you were in your bad moment, he would always make you laugh no matter what you were sad about or mad or disappointed about," Zyion's twin sister Zyrhia said.
The mother said she had spoken to an officer as recently as a week before the shooting incident, which also left five other youths injured.
She said her son had dealt with mental health issues, and had joined groups breaking into cars.
"I tried, y'all. I called the police office almost 30 times in the last two years, and they told me they can't do nothing. I said he's out and breaking into these folks' cars, can you please get him off the street," Deerica said.
She added she was told she would have to take him herself to juvenile services, but that they wouldn't keep him because "he had to really hurt somebody for them to keep him."
"But now he's hurt... I'm hurt. I wanted him to feel how it feels to be set down and told, 'This is life, Zyion,' but now I'm hurt," she said. "My son is gone."
Some city leaders have called for a youth curfew in the wake of the shooting, and other incidents of gun violence among young people. That tactic was endorsed by Duvwon Robinson, a community advocate and former city council candidate who introduced the family at the Public Safety Committee meeting.
"Mothers like her ask for help, and the city failed to help them," he said.
Deerica Charles asked the city leadership to "help these young boys while they still have a chance."
"Because I don't have a chance no more," she said.