Spate of Killings Galvanize Atlantans Into Action Against Black-on-Black Crime


Three black men shot three other blacks to death on a housing project playground and got 18 months in prison. Marilyn Russell, average citizen, got angry.

She called a meeting, expecting 30 people. Three hundred showed up. A recent spate of slayings has galvanized black Atlantans like Russell into addressing black-on-black crime.

In November, the City Council passed a curfew barring unchaperoned youths from being out between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. weeknights and 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. weekends. Councilwoman Davetta Johnson said the death of a 4-year-old girl shot while sleeping on a sofa in her home prompted her to draft the measure.

On the southeast side, activists plan to assemble on street corners on one night in March to drive away drug dealers. Another group won a grant to go into city schools and talk with children about black-on-black violence.


“When you’ve got so many blacks dying, something’s wrong,” said Russell, a 27-year-old civil servant who forked out $450 to organize her meeting.

“I want to change that. Somebody’s got to do it.”

She was moved to act by the outcome of a trial in the June 3 execution-style slayings of three suspected drug dealers, two aged 16. The killings were sparked by a feud over money and crack cocaine, witnesses said.

Herbert C. Stephens, 20, got a life sentence for murder, and Michael E. Jones, 16, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy, is awaiting sentencing. But three others, Christopher Baitey, 15, Frederick Stephens, 20, and Gary Tumbling, 21, got 18-month prison sentences for pleading guilty to conspiracy.


“To let these guys off when they killed somebody? Things like that keep giving our community a black eye,” Russell said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported in December that the national homicide rate for black males ages 15 to 24 has risen 67% since 1984. That translates into 101.1 black males killed for every 100,000 in that age group.

The U.S. Justice Department said 11% of rapes, aggravated assaults and robberies committed by a single person between 1979 and 1986 involved a black offender and a black victim. In Atlanta, police say blacks accounted for 85% of murder victims and 92% of killers in 1988.