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Vigil remembers boy shot by police

Staff Photo: John Bohn A memorial vigil by candlelight is held for Dawntrae Williams on the one-year anniversary of his death. Police officers shot and killed Dawntrae when he reportedly ran at them screaming with a blade more than a foot long in his hands. Dr. Anita Harris, center, legal guardian to Dawntrae, holds a candle with Asiayona Harden, 11, left, and Keontis Transou, 13, right, as a prayer is said Wednesday evening in Lawrenceville.

Staff Photo: John Bohn A memorial vigil by candlelight is held for Dawntrae Williams on the one-year anniversary of his death. Police officers shot and killed Dawntrae when he reportedly ran at them screaming with a blade more than a foot long in his hands. Dr. Anita Harris, center, legal guardian to Dawntrae, holds a candle with Asiayona Harden, 11, left, and Keontis Transou, 13, right, as a prayer is said Wednesday evening in Lawrenceville.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Vicki Lucia, of Flowery Branch, and Jordan Parkman, 9, of Auburn, hold candles during a memorial vigil held for Dawntrae Williams on the one-year anniversary of his death. Police officers shot and killed Dawntrae when he reportedly ran at them screaming with a blade more than a foot long in his hands. Lucka and Parkman are friends of Dawntrae and his family.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- On the one-year anniversary of the death of Dawntrae Williams, his family is still searching for answers.

His grandmother and legal guardian, Anita Harris, and about 10 other family members and friends held a candlelight vigil on Thursday night at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center to remember Williams, and to see that the public doesn't forget him. Harris wrote a song that was performed at the vigil by Joy Parkman that she called an inspiration from God to honor her grandson.

Harris said time since the incident hasn't healed her feelings of loss.

Marcus Coleman, a representative from the Southeast region of the National Action Network, attended the vigil and said Williams' family strongly disagrees with how police have described how the incident took place.

Gwinnett police have said Williams reportedly jumped down all eight steps of his grandmother's porch and ran screaming at responding officers with a blade more than a foot long. Two responding officers opened fire on the mentally unstable 15-year-old and struck him five times, including a fatal shot to the chest.

"This case speaks specifically to mental health," Coleman said. "Dawntrae had a litany of conditions. Most the Gwinnett Police Department were aware of. If we don't get serious about helping the mentally challenged, things like Dawntrae will continue, and things like what happened in Connecticut will continue."

Coleman said he hasn't spoken to Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter about the case in six months, but he previously had two or three pleasant conversations with him. Coleman said Porter has told him the case is still under investigation.

Gwinnett Police Cpl. Edwin Ritter said shortly after the incident that Williams, "saw our officers as something other than friendly, and he was willing to fight to the end."

Coleman said Williams, 15, was 5 feet tall, 110 pounds and had the mentally capacity of a 10-year-old.

"If the Gwinnett Police Department has had this case for 365 days, it's time for another set of eyes," said Coleman, who pointed to the GBI and FBI. "The family is still hurting. There have been no answers, there has been no police report, there has been no meeting with the family. We feel like this case needs to go much further than the Gwinnett Police Department."

Comments

kevin 1 year, 9 months ago

Quote:"If we don't get serious about helping the mentally challenged, things like Dawntrae will continue, and things like what happened in Connecticut will continue."

This may end up being one sad story. It's apparent from the story, this child didn't have any parents that cared about him since he was being raised by a guardian. However, the quote above that uses the word "we" really bothers me. I take this to imply that "we" the people must take care of such kids, not "we" the parents or family members. This is the sad society we live in that doesn't want to take on its responsibility but wants everyone else to be responsible for their problems. Why wasn't this kid getting help before this happened?

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Kat 1 year, 8 months ago

Everything that needed to said was said last year in the comments under the article Police defend teen shooting. Still sad about the boy being shot. Still support what the police had to do.

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