This past week Gwinnett police identified a woman who was found dead at Yellow River Park as 18-year-old Tori Lang of Lithonia.
These are the top stories from the past week.
Gwinnett police say woman found dead at Yellow River Park was teen from Lithonia
Gwinnett police have identified a woman who was found dead at Yellow River Park in unincorporated Stone Mountain Wednesday morning.
Police Officer Senior Hideshi Valle said the body of Lithonia resident Tori Lang, 18, was found at the park, which is located at 3232 Juhan Road, and officers were called to the scene on an “unknown medical call” at 6:30 a.m.
Lang’s body was found dead under a tree and firefighter/paramedics who responded to the scene determined she died from a gunshot wound.
She was identified after police put out a public call for information about her identity, which included releasing details of four tattoos that she had on her body.
“The victim’s family saw the media release and tattoos on social media and notified law enforcement,” Valle said on Thursday.
The police department’s Homicide Unit is investigating the crime. Police have not released information about how they believe Lang ended up at the park and Valle said a motive for her killing has not yet been identified.
Anyone who has information about Lang’s death is asked to call detectives at 770 513-5300 or Atlanta Crime Stoppers, which let’s tipsters remain anonymous at 404-577-8477. They can also visit www.stopcrimeATL.com. There is a cash reward offered by Crime Stoppers for any information that leads to an arrest and an indictment.
Tipsters are asked to reference case No. 21-059388.
Gwinnett County schools to again require face masks in school facilities, on buses
More than 200 parents and community members — and a candidate for governor — gathered outside Gwinnett county Public Schools’ J. Alvin Wilbanks Instructional Support Center Friday night to protest the district’s decision this week to reinstate a mask mandate for the system’s students and employees.
The district announced plans Tuesday to reinstate the face mask mandate after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance earlier in the day that said people should wear face masks, even if they are fully vaccinated, because of the Delta variant of COVID-19.
Gwinnett County Public Schools former Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, whose last day was Friday, announced masks will be required in GCPS facilities and on school buses. The requirement applies to all students, staff and visitors regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
“The facts and recommendations are clear… masks do make a difference and we must do all we can to keep students in school, in person,” Wilbanks said.
The decision to reinstate the mask mandate in Gwinnett schools reignited a debate that had seemingly ended with the conclusion of the 2020-2021 school year and led to a stand off at the school board meeting in May when several parents refused to comply with the previous mandate.
One of the leaders of a group of Gwinnett parents who have been pushing back against mask mandates, critical race theory and other issues told parents gathered for an anti-mask rally at the ISC on Friday that district leaders have been served with a writ of mandamus explaining that parents will file a lawsuit against the district if the new mandate is not rescinded.
The parents are getting some support from officials in the political arena, including state Sen. Clint Dixon and Republican gubernatorial candidate Vernon Jones, who is challenging Gov. Brian Kemp for the GOP’s nomination in 2022.
Jones, at one point, cited John Lewis’ “Good Trouble” slogan and said he was willing to get arrested.
“I don’t want these babies to be in a mask all day long,” Jones told the crowd. “It’s uncomfortable for them. It’s basically child abuse.”
Gwinnett parents are being given until Aug. 2 to decide if they want to change their reference for how their child will be taught this semester, meaning whether they want their children taught in-person or digitally.
The district is telling families to contact their local school if they want to make a change in how they prefer to have their children taught.
“We realize this does not allow families a lot of time to make this decision, but we must have this information by this date to ensure schools are staffed appropriately to serve students and student schedules are finalized prior to the start of school,” Wilbanks said.
The move to require masks in school comes as case numbers continue a sharp rise in Gwinnett County. The two-week new COVID-19 case rate in Gwinnett has more than quadrupled in less than a month, with steady increases each week.
On Friday, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported that there had been 1,342 new COVID-19 cases in Gwinnett alone in the last two weeks. That was up from Tuesday — the day the mask mandate was announced — when the state reported 1,055 new cases in Gwinnett County in the preceding two weeks.
By comparison, Tuesday’s number itself is up from the two-week total of 642 new cases as of one week earlier, on July 20, 409 new cases for the two-week period ending July 13 and 304 new cases for the two-week period ending July 6.
Gwinnett leads Georgia in total cases since the pandemic arrived in the state in March 2020, with state health officials reporting a total of 89,765 cases, 5,397 hospitalizations, 1,136 confirmed deaths and 80 probable deaths in the county.
District officials said their primary concerns was the health and safety of students and staff. Other reasons why they chose to reinstate the mask mandate was that was they felt it was important for students to be in school but elementary and younger middle school age students are ineligible to get vaccinated at this time while several students and staff members who are eligible to be vaccinated have chosen to not do so.
The district also cited CDC and other health partners who have pointed to mask wearing, even by people who are vaccinated, as a key mitigation tool. There has also been a federal executive order that requires students wear face masks on school buses, GCPS officials said.
GCPS officials did say, however, that students who are in close contact with a classmate who tests positive for COVID-19 does not have to go into quarantine if both students have been wearing face masks.
If either of them have not been wearing a mask, however, and quarantine is necessary, the students have to remain in quarantine for up to two weeks.
“While disappointed that the school year will start with masks, GCPS is very happy that its students will be starting the school year in person,” district officials said in their announcement.
“Please know that district leaders will continue to monitor for new guidance from the CDC, health partners, and the state, using it to make updates throughout the 2021–22 school year.”
New GCPS Superintendent Calvin Watts said he is willing to hear the concerns raised by parents who do not want the mask mandate to be in place. Watts takes over the district’s leader on Monday.
“What I am hearing is that they are not appreciative of having their students, their children, to wear masks,” Watts said. “What we’re saying is that ... we need to rely on the expertise of those who are in the (epidemiology) field at CDC, that’s providing us the guidance that we’re following.
“At which time the guidance needs to change based on our metrics, our numbers, we will watch the signs, we will watch the information and the data.”
District officials said there will be mask breaks at the schools and the school leaders will be reaching out to their staffs about scheduling those breaks.
Kids will be allowed to take their masks off when they are outside, during lunch and during mask breaks and students who participate in band and physical education activities will be given times of the day when they don’t have to wear masks.
The district also said it will make accommodations for students and GCPS employees who cannot wear masks because of documented medical reasons such as sensory issues, asthma or other pulmonary conditions.
“A layered approach is needed to keep our students safe and in school,” Wilbanks said. “Masks are one of the tools proven to be effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19. It is time for us to mask up and take advantage of vaccination opportunities to help our community get past the pandemic.”
Gwinnett school board officially hires Calvin Watts to be GCPS' new superintendent
Calvin Watts is officially coming back to Gwinnett County Public Schools — starting Monday.
Watts — who spent more than a decade working in the district as both an assistant principal, principal and central office employee — was unanimously hired by the Gwinnett County Board of Education on Friday afternoon to become the district’s new superintendent. The 52-year-old is also a history-maker for GCPS because he is the first African-American to serve as superintendent of Georgia’s largest school district.
Watts left GCPS in 2015 to become the superintendent of the Kent School District in Kent, Wash., and he continued to hold that job until Friday’s vote.
“It feels wonderful (to be back in GCPS),” Watts said. “I’ve shared this before that I grew up personally in Washington state, but I grew up professionally when I relocated to the southeast and served 13 of my 29 years in education in Gwinnett County Public Schools.
“I could not be more honored, more privileged to begin my tenure effective Aug. 2 as the next superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools.”
The school board approved a two-year contract, with a base salary of $380,972, to have Watts serve as the district’s leader, but that figure increases to $413,372 a year once transportation and expense allowances are factored in.
“I’m super excited to have Dr. Watts here,” board member Steve Knudsen said. “I think he’s going to do a great job.”
Board Chairman Everton Blair Jr. added, “I’m looking forward to the work that we’re able to continue in this school system.”
Watts’ employment contract is structured so that his base salary will change Jan. 1 of each year to match the percentage increase in the average teacher’s salary from the previous fiscal year to the current one.
The district will also reimburse Watts for moving to Georgia, but the maximum reimbursement is capped at $29,500. This will cover packing and unpacking costs, storage costs, moving and transportation costs, as well as temporary housing costs for up to three months.
The contract is set to expire July 31, 2023.
Watts will have a tall order ahead of him as the first new superintendent for Gwinnett County Public Schools in a quarter of a century.
He replaces outgoing Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, who led GCPS for 25 years.
Friday was also Wilbanks’ last day on the job. At a farewell gala for Wilbanks on Thursday, the now former superintendent expressed confidence in his successor’s abilities to lead the district.
“He’ll do well,” Wilbanks said.
In addition to replacing Wilbanks, Watts will also be starting his new job two days before students head back to school for the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. GCPS will begin the school year with a staggered start for in-person learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But, while it may sound like Watts is jumping straight into the fire with such a major event happening in the district during his first week, he said he’s ready to get to work.
“I choose to look at it this way: I’m an only child, I grew up in a high reliability household and my dad was in the military and my mom was in the health care field,” Watts said. “If something went wrong in the home or something didn’t go as we planned, and my parents didn’t do it, it was probably me that needed to fix something or do something.
“So, I’ve always been able to take a look at a situation and not look at it from a deficit model, but to say ‘What is it that we need to do differently?’ “
Watts acknowledged that leading GCPS — which has about 180,000 students — won’t be easy, but he said it will take everyone, including the district’s leaders, staff and the community as a whole to make sure Gwinnett’s students are successful.
“My goal is to lead in the way that I always have, first with the motto that ‘We must all reach and teach our children as if they had our last name,’ and secondly that we lead with the understanding that diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging are what we aspire for, should aspire for, all of our students, our staff members and our families,” Watts said. “And, when we do this well, we’ll be able to show that our students will succeed and they will thrive.”
But, while Watts has worked in GCPS before, he acknowledged that six years have passed since he left the district to become the superintendent of the Kent School District.
As a result of that time passage, he said his initial priority will be to get reacquainted with GCPS and the area, and to learn about the changes that have taken place in the county since he left and what the needs are now in 2021.
“The reality is I am rejoining Gwinnett County Public Schools in a new role, as superintendent,” Watts said. “My first, and major priority will be to look, to listen and to learn. This is the tour that I actually be undergoing for the first 90 days of my tenure to make sure that I understand the context of what’s working (and) what areas need to be improved.”
And, people were already lining up Friday night to make their voices heard on what they think Watts should do as superintendent. Within minutes of the board formalizing his hiring, the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a statement calling on him to make student discipline reform a priority of his administration.
The SPLC has represented students in several exclusionary discipline cases where the district’s discipline decision was overturned by courts of the State Board of Education.
SPLC staff attorney Claire Sherburne said Black students, for example, make up 32% of the student population but 46% of all disciplinary actions taken by the district. By comparison, she said White students make up about 21% of the student population but account for just 13% of discipline cases.
“Through his role, Mr. Watts has a crucial opportunity and obligation to reverse the district’s dismal track record on school discipline,” Sherburne said in the SPLC’s statement. “And, we echo the community’s calls to make it a top priority from day one.
“We also are counting on Watts to hold the Gwinnett County school board accountable to its promise to overhaul the student code of conduct, including eliminating policies that discriminate against students of color, LGBTQ youth and students with disabilities. The students and families of Gwinnett County have waited long enough for change. They deserve access to evidence-based discipline policies and practices in which all students can thrive and succeed.”
Buford City Schools encouraging, although not requiring, face masks in classrooms — but they must be worn on buses
Buford City Schools officials won't make students or staff wear a face mask in the classroom when the school year begins on Wednesday — but they aren't shying away from saying masks are a good idea either as a new variant of COVID-19 continues to spread.
"We strongly recommend that non-vaccinated students and teachers wear a cloth face covering when they are at school," Buford City Schools Superintendent Robert Downs said in a letter to parents. "However, masking is optional at BCS."
Buford's approach is different from Gwinnett County Public Schools, which issued a new mandate for students to wear masks in GCPS facilities after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance this week that states people should wear masks, regardless of whether they have been fully vaccinated. The guidance is in response to a sharp rise in cases involving the Delta variant of COVID-19.
Although Buford schools will not require students wear face masks in their classrooms, however, that does not mean students can go maskless the entire school day.
"Students will be required to wear cloth face coverings on BCS school buses (which is a federal mandate)," Downs said. "Face coverings should be a solid color or one that has the BCS logo on it."
There are some signs that life is moving back to a sense of "normal" in Buford City Schools — the district said Buford athletics will take place this year with stadiums at full capacity — but the school system is also taking several precautions this year to limit the chances of the Delta variant entering and spreading in its schools.
Hand sanitizer will be available in all classrooms, common areas and on school buses and high-touch areas will be cleaned daily.
"If a positive case of COVID-19 is confirmed in a classroom, building, or school bus, additional disinfecting will occur the same day," Downs said.
Students and BCS staff are being asked to practice social distancing of at least three feet indoors. Contact tracing will also remain in place, as required by the Georgia Department of Public Health.
Although the water fountains will be operational in the district, Downs said students are still encouraged to drink from clear personal water bottles instead of using the fountains.
Students and staff are also being told that they should not come to school if they have a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher and should not return to school until they have been fever free for at least 24 hours.
"As we did last year, any student or staff member who tests positive for COVID-19 will be required to isolate in accordance with the isolation guidelines from the Georgia Department of Public Health," Downs said. "If you are fully vaccinated (14 days after the last shot) or if you have recovered from the virus in the past 90 days (and provide lab results/vaccination card to school nurse), you will NOT be subject to quarantine after contact tracing."
Downs said the CDC has said the need to quarantine can be limited when both students who were engaged in the contact were correctly using well-fitting masks. The district has also revised its approach to immediately quarantining large groups of students who are exposed to COVID.
"A more systematic and intentional procedure will be put in place regarding close contacts quarantine this fall," the superintendent said.
Parent visitation to Buford schools facilities will be phased back in this school year, but the district is directing parents to talk to their child's school to learn how that will work for that specific facility.
The district also announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has extended no-cost meal service for all students for the 2021-2022 school year.
Meanwhile, school nurses will be the local point of contact when a student becomes ill and tests positive for COVID-19.
But, Downs said the plans that Buford schools has set in place are not etched in stone. They could still change depending on what happens with COVID-19 cases.
"We are still in weekly contact with our local Department of Public Health officials, and if community transmission data or BCS-specific data justify a need to change any of the above safety protocols, we will make the appropriate adjustments," Downs said.
"Thank you for your continued support and flexibility as we navigate our new normal. We are all very excited to have everyone back in the buildings and making great choices this school year."
Gwinnett Chamber fetes J. Alvin Wilbanks ahead of his last day as superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools
When outgoing Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks wakes up Monday morning, it will be the first time in decades that he hasn’t had to think about how his decisions will impact the education of students.
But, that doesn’t mean Wilbanks — whose last day as the superintendent of Georgia’s largest school system is this weekend — will be able to sleep in and relax when next week rolls around and GCPS is preparing for the start of a new school year without him at the helm.
“Monday will be that first day and I have a dental appointment at 8 o’clock, so I hope the dentist is easy on me,” Wilbanks said as he let out a laugh.
A parade of tributes and gifts were bestowed on Wilbanks on Thursday as the Gwinnett Chamber hosted a luncheon at the Gas South Convention Center to honor his career in education. It was also the outgoing superintendent’s 79th birthday.
Wilbanks has led GCPS for just over 25 years, a rare feat in an era where — according to a 2018 report from the Broad Center — the average length of a superintendent’s tenure in a “big district” is six years.
“Mr. Wilbanks got involved in the school system and it turned into the greatest school system in the United States,” Gwinnett Chamber President and CEO Nick Masino said. “I firmly believe that. If it’s a Gwinnett thing, I always say it’s the greatest, but it really is (in the school system’s case).”
The luncheon was one of the last functions Wilbanks participated in before his last day as GCPS’ top official. The county’s Board of Education voted earlier this year to terminate his employment contract 11 months early, setting Saturday as his final day on the job, although Friday will be his last day in the office.
“It was very humbling and very heartwarming,” Wilbanks said. “I’m very thankful that this many people would want to show up for a luncheon. They’re great people.”
Speakers at the event included former Gov. Roy Barnes, Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson, United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Denise Townsend and Gwinnett Municipal Association Executive Director Randy Meacham.
Hendrickson presented Wilbanks with a proclamation declaring Thursday to be J. Alvin Wilbanks Day in Gwinnett County while Townsend presented the United Way’s Child Well-Being Champion Award to him.
“Under Mr. Wilbanks’ leadership, Gwinnett County Public Schools — the 13th largest school system in the country — has repeatedly been recognized as one of the nation’s best,” Hendrickson said. “Our schools are a key reason for this community’s success and for the high quality of life we enjoy.
“I am grateful for Mr. Wilbanks’ service to this county and for the exceptional education that many of our children, my son included, have experienced in Gwinnett County Public Schools.”
A 13-minute video was played which highlighted Wilbanks’ rise in education, including teaching at Tucker High School, working for the Georgia Department of Education, serving as the first-ever president of Gwinnett Technical College and finally serving as GCPS’ superintendent and CEO for a quarter of a century.
- By Curt Yeomans email@example.com
In the video, former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and other people who have worked with Wilbanks over the years talked about his impact on education.
Isakson talked about how the Gateway program in GCPS helped served as a model for the federal No Child Left Behind program in the early 2000s. Isakson also said he considered Wilbanks to be a resource and said that former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama respected Wilbanks.
“When issues came forward, I’d go to Alvin,” Isakson said. “I considered him my resource to tell me what would really work and really wouldn’t work. He’s been an outstanding beneficiary to the entire educational process in Washington. George Bush respects him, Barack Obama respects him, the people of Georgia respect him and I respect him.”
Wilbanks was Georgia’s Superintendent of the Year in 2005 and GCPS won two Broad Prizes for Education — in 2010 and 2014 — under his leadership.
Wilbanks said the success that GCPS students have had over the last 25 years is what stands out to him about his time as superintendent.
“They go to schools all over the country or other countries (and) those that chose to go into a career after their K-12 education do well,” he said. “That’s the standard I think we have to measure — how successful are our students — and we have a lot of students that are super successful.”
Several speakers attributed the success of Gwinnett County Public Schools’ students to Wilbanks’ leadership.
“He has taken the fastest growing system, one of the fastest growing in the nation from time to time, (and) fashioned it into an educational institution,” Barnes said. “Not only that, he has confronted issues that many of us never had to confront.
“Who would have thought the largest school system would have to worry about whether the kids could come to school or not?”
Barnes added that Wilbanks was his “right hand in education reform” in Georgia when he was governor 20 years ago.
But, Wilbanks said he did not do it alone. He explained that the district’s staff — whether they be teachers, principals, other school-level staff or central office officials — also had a role to play in student outcomes.
“I’ve done my best and leadership is important,” Wilbanks said. “I’ve always tried to be a leader that people would be proud of and could follow. If people aren’t following you, you’re not leading. You’re out for a stroll.
“But, you know, we have a lot of great employees in this school district. They make a difference every day and I appreciate that.”
The outgoing superintendent said he hopes his legacy, the thing he’ll most be remembered for, is that “we had a school district that recognized the needs of students, the community, parents and we did a good job in most instances meeting those expectations.”
But, in meantime, with GCPS beginning the 2021-2022 school year on Wednesday, Wilbanks said will have to adjust to not having the burden of worrying if things are going well in Gwinnett’s classrooms on the first day of school.
“I’m sure I’ll have some degree of withdrawal pains, but other than that, I’m proud for our people,” Wilbanks said. “They’ll carry on ... You know you’ve got to prepare for the future and we have people that are ready to carry on.”
Gwinnett police investigating fatal shootout at Grayson Highway shopping center
Gwinnett police are investigating a homicide that occurred in the parking lot of the Grayson Commons shopping center Monday night.
Police said that officers responded to a person shot call around 9:30 p.m. at the shopping center, which is located at 1921 Grayson Highway. When officers arrived, they located found one male who was dead at the scene. Another male was suffering from gunshot wounds and was transported to a local hospital.
Detectives believe an altercation between the two males started and the males shot each other. Police have not released a motive for the shooting.
Information on the individuals will be withheld until next of kin is notified, police said.
Police are asking anyone who has information about the case to contact GCPD detectives at 770-513-5300. To remain anonymous, tipsters should contact Crime Stoppers at 404-577-TIPS (8477) or visit www.stopcrimeATL.com. Crime Stoppers tipsters can receive a cash reward for information leading to an arrest and indictment in this case.
Case Number: 21-059028
Duluth police arrest trio for theft of catalytic converters from a car at an apartment complex
Two Lawrenceville residents and a Norcross resident were arrested by Duluth police last Friday and are accused of stealing the catalytic converters from several cars.
Lawrenceville resident David Lopez, 32, Norcross resident Justin Feliciano-Onofre, 24, and Lawrenceville resident Kimberly Joya, 26, face charges of entering automobile or other motor vehicle with intent to commit theft or felony, possession of tools for the commission of a crime, loitering and prowling, with Joya also facing a charge of acquiring a license plate to conceal identification of a motor vehicle.
Duluth police were dispatched to 3550 Pleasant Hill Road at about 1:45 a.m. on July 23 on a call about a theft in progress. Officer Hector Rodriguez wrote in his report that dispatchers told officers to be on the lookout for a white BMW SUV that the suspects were believed to be traveling in. As Rodriguez was traveling west on Pleasant Hill Road, he saw a white BMW SUV that was also traveling west on the road, so he pulled the vehicle over and another officer arrived to provide backup.
“I ordered the driver to step out of the vehicle followed by the front passenger then the rear passenger one at a time,” Rodriguez wrote in the report. “All three suspects were detained and placed in handcuffs to the rear (checked for fit and double locked) and the vehicle was cleared. While clearing the vehicle a red cordless saw machine was in plain view on the back passenger seat. In the trunk of the vehicle in plain view there were two catalytic converters that appeared to have been sawed off. The three subjects in the vehicle identified themselves as David Lopez in the passenger seat, Justin Feliciano-Onofre in the rear passenger seat, and Kimberly Joya in the driver seat.”
Rodriguez said in his report that Lopez and Feliciano-Onofre agreed to speak with him after he read them their Miranda Rights, and Lopez allegedly claimed the trio had been at a car meet at a BP gas station on Pleasant Hill Road and they were helping Joya move out. Their names were checked by dispatchers, however, and it was discovered that none of them lived in the apartment complex where the 911 call came from, the officer wrote in the report.
Lopez allegedly told Rodriguez that they went by the apartment complex that the 911 call came from because Joya was looking for a place to live. Rodriguez asked Lopez again why they were there and he reportedly said they stopped at the apartment complex because Feliciano-Onofre had to use a restroom.
“I then advised David that a resident saw them in his complex and gave a description of what they were wearing and driving a white BMW SUV and saw them tampering with another vehicle,” Rodriguez said in the report. “David began speaking to Justin in Spanish stating ‘What did you do when you got off the vehicle you know I can’t go to jail I have a business to run if you did something go ahead and tell him.’ Justin did not reply back to David. A drive by with the witness inside of a patrol car was done and the witness confirmed the occupants and the vehicle. All three occupants were placed under arrest.”
A red saw machine was retrieved from the SUV and the report states the blade was still warm, which Rodriguez said indicated it had recently been used. Another saw blade was allegedly found wrapped in a clear plastic bag in Lopez’s sweater.
Feliciano-Onofre then reportedly confessed while officers were searching him.
“As I began to start searching Justin he stated in Spanish, ‘It was me I needed some extra cash I took the items inside the car,’” Rodriguez said in the report. “I then asked if he was referring to the catalytic converters and he stated ‘Yes.’ Justin was then placed in the rear of the patrol car with David and was seat belted in. Another officer located the victims vehicle, a Toyota Sequoia, and stated it was missing two catalytic converters. The victim was contacted and he confirmed his vehicle was missing two catalytic converters. The pipe system on the catalytic converters had red residue from what appeared to be from the red saw blades found on the subjects.”
Altercation leads to shooting death at Norcross area apartment complex, police say
Gwinnett police say a man is dead after an argument led to a shooting at a Norcross area apartment complex Wednesday night.
Police were called to the complex, located at 1405 Beaver Ruin Rd., around 11:15 p.m. When they arrived, officers found a man dead in the parking lot.
Police also detained another male at the scene who was in possession of a firearm. Police believe there was an altercation between the two which led to the shooting.
Detectives are currently questioning witnesses to determine the motive for the shooting. Police said the victim’s identity will not be been released until next of kin has been notified.
Anyone with information in the case is asked to contact GCPD detectives at 770-513-5300. To remain anonymous, tipsters should contact Crime Stoppers at 404-577-TIPS (8477) or visit www.stopcrimeATL.com. Crime Stoppers tipsters can receive a cash reward for information leading to an arrest and indictment in this case.
Case Number: 21-059622
Daily Post's Back-to-School health fair and All About Kids Expo draws scores of families
Hundreds of families flocked to the Rhodes Jordan Park community center in Lawrenceville Saturday for the Daily Post’s Back-to-School Health Fair and All About Kids Expo.
In the first hour alone, 625 people were clocked coming in the door to the fair, according to Bob McCray, who is the vice-president of sales and marketing for the Daily Post’s parent company, Southern Community Newspapers Inc.
“That’s a record,” McCray said.
Health fairs that the Daily Post holds typically attract crowds of about 500 people, organizers said, although the newspaper’s All About Kids Expo typically draws large crowds. The expo is normally held in the spring but was merged with the Back-To-School health fair this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected event programming last year and earlier this year.
SCNI Director of Major Accounts & Digital Sales Janet McCray said about 1,500 to 2,000 were estimated to have attended the four-hour event Saturday. She said the turnout was bigger than the newspaper and other sponsors anticipated for an event that was being held while the COVID-19 pandemic was still underway.
“Everyone is out of everything,” McCray said about three hours into the event. “We knew it would be great. We had a lot of pre-registrants so we knew it was going to be a good one, but we didn’t realize how good it was going to be and it turned out to be really awesome.”
Stringed book bags with some school supplies in them were given to the first 250 kids who came through the front door of the event. While those ran out within the first hour, there was still plenty of things for attendees to do, including interactive booths and giveaways hosted by participating vendors and agencies, such as Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation, Gwinnett Trails, the Gwinnett Stripers, Building Babies Brains, Live Healthy Gwinnett, Gwinnett libraries and the Center for Pan Asian Community Services.
Building Babies Brains, for example, hosted an outdoor activity with Gwinnett County Public Schools’ Play2Learn program where attendees got to write and draws images in shaving cream that was spread out on child-sized tables.
The idea was to show families that child learning can be done at home with simple household materials before kids are old enough to attend school.
“We’re promoting that early learning begins at birth, giving resources for parents to be their child’s first and best teacher and we’re handing out books to every family and information about programs that are in the community,” GCPS Director of Early Learning and School Readiness Kim Holland said.
Elsewhere at the event, kids could talk into a microphone at a booth hosted by BG Ad Group, which does the Daily Post’s podcasts while their parents got to learn about opportunities to become a poll worker for Gwinnett County’s elections division. Gwinnett County public safety officials were also distributing info and materials at the event.
There were several health-related booths hosted by agencies such as Children’s Health Care of Atlanta, IACT Health, Clover Health, Walmart Health, the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale Health Departments and Northeast Georgia Health System. The Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine also had a booth to talk to attendees about COVID-19.
Children’s Health Care of Atlanta was the presenting sponsor for the Kids Expo portion of the event while Clover Health and Northeast Georgia Health System were the presenting sponsor for the health fair portion.
“I really think this is probably the first time in awhile that we’ve had this opportunity to be out in the public, so it’s good to see that people are still really wanting to learn more and be a part of their community,” Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Community Development Officer Annie Valenty said.
Attendees who pre-registered could also get a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Empower PAD, which is backed by Johnson & Johnson, had a mobile unit set up as well to talk to attendees about peripheral artery disease.
“We’re going around the country to raise awareness and to also do early detection,” Empower PAD’s Tim Tripepi said. “The early detection can help stop strokes, heart attacks and amputations.”
There was also a presentation on the dangers of vaping that two Buford High School seniors, Juan and Marco Borrego, made on behalf of Vaping-Attention to Prevention.
Parents who attended the event said they enjoyed getting to learn about resources that are available in Gwinnett County, both for family entertainment and for their family’s health.
“I love coming to events like this,” said Anitra Gaston, who attended with her two daughters. “It’s very informative.”
Lawrenceville resident Shanika Ferguson, who brought her children to the event, said she enjoyed it as well.
“I learned about things I didn’t know about, the activities for the kids and things like that,” Ferguson said.
Lawrenceville historian Mary Frazier Long remembered for devotion to chronicling city's past
Mary Frazier Long was either the ultimate opening act, or the person you did not want to follow if you were in the lineup of speakers at a Gwinnett Historical Society meeting.
Beverly Paff, the historical society’s president, said Long offered entertaining tales of Lawrenceville’s history at the meetings, pulling stories from old newspapers around Gwinnett that were published upwards of a century or more earlier — and reporting to the group about types of stories were reported on.
Sometimes, it was an article about livestock wandering through downtown Lawrenceville. Other times, it was about people who passed through the county seat and thought they’d visited “Eden.”
But, Paff said they were always a highlight of the historical society’s meetings.
“She would give us a little synopsis of things that happened in the different towns in Gwinnett County throughout the years and she was a hard act to follow,” Paff said. “Whether it was me or the speaker who was speaking that night, it is hard to follow Mary because she is so entertaining.”
Long, who was a lifelong Lawrenceville resident, died on July 19 at the age of 89. She was both the city’s historian as well as the Gwinnett Historical Society’s historian, and wrote a book on the city’s history, “About Lawrenceville,” as well as a book on the history of Lawrenceville schools, called appropriately enough “About Lawrenceville Schools.”
She and her husband, Dean, also co-wrote “Old Georgia Privies,” a look at old outhouses — those are old outdoor bathrooms, for the young folks who aren’t familiar with the term — located around the state.
But, Long was an educator at heart.
She was a teacher for 34 years in DeKalb County Schools, served on a statewide education task force under former Gov. Jimmy Carter, was a member of Delta Kappa Gamma educators sorority and was a former president of the Georgia Retired Educators Association.
“(The Georgia Retired Educators Association) built a new building up (in Flowery Branch) and Mary helped them establish it and get items for their archives,” Paff said. “She really did stay involved in education.”
Paff, who considered Long a role model, said Long also went around to speak at various civic groups and continuously raised funds for a scholarship she created at Lawrenceville First Baptist Church to help education students who were working on their master’s degrees.
“She wanted to keep up her speaking engagements so she could get donations for the scholarship fund,” the historical society’s president said.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought Long’s public presentations to a halt, but she had resumed attending meetings of the historical society and making presentations there in March.
It was her dedication to preserving history that many people remember Long for, however. In addition to writing two books related to Lawrenceville’s history, she also spoke on trolley tours that used to go around the city and gave the presentations on the old one-room school houses in Gwinnett County during the annual Elisha Winn Fair.
“Mary is just the most delightful person I’ve ever met and she knows so much about history, especially the history of the city of Lawrenceville,” former Gwinnett Historical Society President Betty Warbington said. “It’s just amazing her memory — and her wit is outstanding. When you mix historical facts with wit, it’s always delightful.
“We’re going to miss her so much in our society. She was so entertaining.”
Lawrenceville City Manager Chuck Warbington, who is Betty’s son, said the city had lost “a great friend” with Long’s death. In addition to being the city’s historian, she was also a member of Lawrenceville’s Heritage Trail Committee and had been recognized with one of the city’s Heritage Trail medallions.
“She is a fixture in the city and was a friend of the city and a historian that a lot of folks have always gone to to look at: ‘OK, what happened here,’” he said.
Long’s family will receive visitors at her home from 5 until 7 p.m. on Aug. 6, and her memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Aug. 7 at Lawrenceville First Baptist Church, which is located at 165 S. Clayton St. in Lawrenceville.
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