One person was arrested in connection with a shooting that occurred in the Target store in Lawrenceville on Saturday afternoon.
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Suspect, victim identified in shooting at Lawrenceville Target
The names of the suspect and the victim in a shooting that occurred inside the Target store in Lawrenceville on Saturday afternoon have been released by Gwinnett County police.
The shooting occurred inside the Target located at 875 Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road in unincorporated Lawrenceville. Officers were dispatched to the store at about 1:26 p.m. on Saturday.
On Monday, police said Lawrenceville resident Elijah Mitchell, 30, faces one count each of aggravated assault, reckless conduct and Cruelty to Children in the 3rd degree after he allegedly shot Lawrenceville resident Orlanda Banks, 27, at the store. Mitchell was arrested by police at the scene on Saturday.
Police previously said they believed the shooting stemmed from a domestic dispute between Mitchell and Banks. Officials confirmed on Monday that the pair did know each other.
Officers have not yet said what the pair was arguing about.
“This is very shocking,” said Master Police Officer Angela Carter on Saturday of the fact that the shooting happened in a crowded store in the middle of the day. “I say Gwinnett County (police are) here to do everything we can to keep the community safe. We responded quickly and we the suspect into custody.”
Carter said on Saturday that Banks had sustained non-life threatening injuries and was taken to a hospital. There were no other injuries that were reported.
The store was evacuated and closed immediately after the shooting.
One vehicle in the parking lot was loaded on flatbed truck and taken away, but it was unclear who the vehicle belonged to.
Carter said the vehicle was “potentially” tied to the shooting.
Portions of the parking lot, including the drive area directly outside the store’s entrance, were roped off as the Crime Scene Investigation Unit and investigators worked the scene inside the store.
The store was closed for a few hours after the shooting as investigators collected evidence.
“CSI is inside processing (the scene) just to make sure we get all of the evidence needed in this case,” Carter said on Saturday afternoon.
Return to www.GwinnettDailyPost.com for updates.
Parents of 10-year-old girl killed in arson fire have disappeared, face false imprisonment and child cruelty charges, Gwinnett police say
The parents of a 10-year-old girl who was killed in an arson fire started by her brother have disappeared after false imprisonment and child cruelty charges were filed against them — and Gwinnett County police are asking for the public’s help to find them.
Loganville residents William Linn McCue, 47, and Carina Wisniewski McCue, 38, were last known to be at the Hometown Suites which is located at 1775 N. Brown Road in Lawrenceville, Police Officer Senior Hideshi Valle said.
Valle added that the couple was last seen driving a white 2017 Honda Accord with Georgia license plate CHB7385 in the area around Interstate 85 and Oakbrook Parkway in the Norcross area.
Both parents have been charged with first and second degree cruelty to children as well as false imprisonment based evidence arson investigators found at their home after the fire on Easter morning.
“During the Arson investigation regarding the fire, given the conditions of the house and the location where the deceased juvenile victim was found, it was determined that the children might be victims of cruelty to children,” Valle said. “Therefore, a separate investigation was initiated against the parents.”
Court officials removed other children who had been living in the home from their parents custody following the fire. Meanwhile, investigators continued to look into the conditions in which the children had been living.
Police said arson and police special victims unit investigators who looked into the home after the fire discovered the family had been allegedly living in unsanitary and unsafe conditions. Some of these conditions dealt with kitchen water while other dealt with sleeping arrangements.
“They located a makeshift bed with bedding in the bathtub in the bathroom where the female victim was found deceased,” Valle said. “Arson and SVU investigators also located improvised camping-style toilet seat buckets and non-usable toilets with septic tanks not working or full.
“The kitchen sink had been re-plumbed for the water from the faucet to go into a five-gallon bucket sitting on the floor. In addition, the showers and the bathtubs did not appear to be functioning. Attempts to locate the parents for interviews have been unsuccessful.”
Anyone who has information about the McCues whereabouts, or about the case itself, is asked to call detectives at 770-513-5300 or Crime Stoppers, which lets tipsters remain anonymous, at 404-577-8477. They can also visit www.stopcrimeATL.com. There is a cash reward offered by Crime Stoppers for information that leads to an arrest and indictment.
Tipsters should reference case Nos. 22-0032231 and 22-0032232.
Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner Tiffany Porter dies after breast cancer battle
Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner Tiffany Porter, who had survived two bouts of breast cancer, died on Thursday after a long battle with the disease, according to her office.
Porter, 43, was nearly a year-and-a-half into her term as tax commissioner, having been elected to the office in 2020. Porter was surrounded by her family and friends when she died, her office said.
“Ms. Porter overcame many obstacles to achieve the ambitious goals she set for herself,” Chief Deputy Tax Commissioner Denise Mitchell said. “I will always remember her as a strong, resilient, brilliant spirit, and all the joy she brought to us. We will miss her.”
Porter was the first African-American to be elected to the tax commissioner’s office in Gwinnett County, and was one of several Black women who were elected at the forefront of the county’s switch from Republican to Democratic control between the 2018 and 2020 election cycles.
She was the mother of four children — Brandon, 23, Nia, 20, Zoe, 17, and Tori, 15 — and had been the first person in her family to get a college degree as well as a law degree — which she got from Emory University — and to pass the bar exam. She was also the first African-American to serve as Duluth’s Municipal Court judge prior to being elected as tax commissioner.
Porter had lived in Gwinnett County for more than 20 years and was a member of Life Church International in Duluth and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority as well. She was also a certified NFL agent and a former Atlanta chiefs cheerleaders.
As tax commissioner, Porter made changes such as giving tax payers the ability to make an appointments to receive services at any office rather than having to show up and wait in line, and making workplace improvement for the 160 people who worked under her, officials in her office said.
There had been controversy as well after she proposed charging cities that used her office for billing an additional fee that would have supplemented her salary. Many of the eight cities that used her office for billing ultimately opted to do their own billing rather than pay the fee, however.
The tax commissioner’s office will be closed on the day of her funeral. That date has not yet been set.
Porter’s death was mourned by other elected officials in the county.
“On behalf of all of us at Gwinnett County Government, I send sincere condolences to the Tiffany’s family, friends and coworkers. We are all saddened by this loss,” Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson said in a statement.
In a Twitter post, state Rep. Jasmine Clark, D-Lilburn, said, “May her family find peace during these difficult times. Rest peacefully, Tiffany.”
State Sen. Nikki Merritt said, “My heart goes out to the family and friends of Tiffany Porter during this difficult time, particularly to her four children. No words are adequate. She was a trailblazer many times over throughout her life and had a passion for service to our Gwinnett community.
“She will be mourned and missed by many, may her memory be a blessing and an inspiration.”
Porter’s fellow tax commissioners in metro Atlanta are also mourning her death. As Gwinnett’s tax commissioner, Porter was active in the Georgia Association of Tax Officials.
“I will always remember Tiffany as being vibrant, energetic and outgoing,” Georgia Association of Tax Officials President and Walton County Tax Commissioner Derry Boyd said.
“She was an ambitious leader who strived to and accomplished many distinguished and professional successes.”
Cobb County Tax Commissioner Carla Jackson added, “The loss of our colleague is felt by many. She was extremely impactful. Our hearts and prayers go out to her family, friends, and staff.”
Mitchell will succeed Porter in the office and fill the remainder of Porter’s term in office, which is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2024.
Snellville man charged with murder after 8-month-old daughter left in hot car for hours, police say
A Snellville man charged with murder after he left his 8-month-old daughter sitting in a hot car for hours on Tuesday while he was arrested and taken to jail on unrelated charges never told the officers arresting him that there was a child in his car that needed to be taken care of, a Snellville police detective said during a press conference on Wednesday.
Davied Japez McCorry Whatley, 20, faces a second-degree murder charge in the death of his daughter, Nova Grace Whatley-Trejo. Whatley parked his car at Snellville City Hall and went to the Snellville Police Department headquarters at about 2 p.m. Tuesday to retrieve a handgun of his that police had previously confiscated.
Detective Jeff Manley said police do not release firearms without first conducting a background check on the owner, and officials discovered during the check that Whatley had outstanding probation violation warrants.
So the police arrested him and took him to jail. Meanwhile, his daughter sat in his car for hours.
“He was on (body worn camera) video the entire time, from the moment he walked into the Snellville Police Department to the moment he was transported and released to deputies for processing at the Gwinnett County Detention Center,” Manley said.
“He made no statements as to the fact that his daughter was left in the car two buildings away from the Snellville Police Department.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is handling the investigation into the child’s death. Manley said no one knew the child was in car until Whatley told mother hours later that his daughter was in the car.
Whatley’s mother went to the car to check on her granddaughter and found her in the vehicle, a 2007 Mazda 3. The grandmother then took her granddaughter to Piedmont Eastside’s Emergency Room.
The child was declared dead by doctors at the hospital.
“I’m absolutely astounded that somebody would leave an 8-month-old in a car, park away from our building and walk up here, knowing that child was in the car and leave them there,” Manley said.
Manley said it was not clear how long the child had been in the car, but police had previously said the grandmother arrived at Piedmont Eastside with her granddaughter’s body at about 9 p.m. Hospital staff notified a Snellville police sergeant who worked off duty at the hospital about the child’s death.
Manley said a claim made by the grandmother that her son had been arrested during a traffic stop was not accurate.
After being notified of the deceased infant, Snellville police officers found Whatley’s 2007 Mazda 3 in the parking lot of the Snellville City Hall, parked near the dumpsters.
Whatley had been released from the jail early Wednesday morning on the probation violation warrant.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation Agent Lisa Vorrasi said Whatley was arrested again this morning — on the murder charge — by GBI agents, Gwinnett County police SWAT and Snellville police. Jail records he was booked into the jail just after 12:30 p.m.
The Snellville Police Department has requested the GBI take over as the primary investigating agency for the event.
Jail records show Whatley was arrested in January on charges of driving without a valid license, possession of a schedule II controlled substance and possession of a firearm or knife during the commission or attempt to commit certain felonies.
He was also arrested in 2020 on hit and run, driving on a suspended or revoked license, failure to maintain insurance and driving on R/W lanes for traffic charges, according to jail records.
Literacy education nonprofit Preface donates more than 200 multilingual books to Graves Elementary School library
Graves Elementary School Principal Monica Ball’s first meeting with Preface founder J.T. Wu was entirely an accidental meeting.
The pair were at a Gwinnett Chamber Principal for A Day breakfast and the principal who was supposed to be partnered with Wu had not yet arrived.
“His principal was running behind and he didn’t have a partner, so he changed his seat and there you go,” Ball said. “We started talking and the rest is history.”
The Norcross school received a major gift from Wu and Preface on Thursday when the nonprofit donated a “legacy gift” of more than 200 multilingual books to the school’s library. The books highlight stories of people of color, ranging from fictional characters and their adventures to the stories of real life people such as Aretha Franklin.
There are also books on issues such as the importance of voting that were donated to the school.
Several of the books are also multilingual, designed to help children who come from families where English is not the primary language spoken at home develop a love of reading.
Ball said having multilingual books will be beneficial since some parents don’t speak English well and having books in their native language allows them to spend quality time reading books with their children at home.
“It can difficult for our students when language is already a deficit,” Ball said. “So, when we have books that we need to at least allow them to see, ‘Oh, they have pictures of me inside of that book,’ or there’s something interesting in that book that they can reflect on and really connect to, then that is really important, not only for them, but also for their parents.
“Imagine being able to take a book home that’s in Spanish from school and the parent can read it to them. So, it’s an awesome way to make those connections that we really, really need because without our community being able to understand what we’re doing in a school, then it just opens up that gap.”
Preface is a nonprofit organization that aims to improve early childhood literacy and provides multilingual tutoring at about two dozen schools in 11 states. It trains high school students in multilingual teaching best practices and has them read to elementary school students and work with them to develop their reading skills.
It is a partner with Gwinnett County Public Schools as well as other schools elsewhere in the nation.
Although Wu and Ball met at the Principal for a Day breakfast, it was actually U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s office that helped connect Preface officials with officials at Graves Elementary School, according to Preface’s founder.
“It’s thanks to Sen Warnock’s Office,” Wu said. “We were having some conversations around where are some schools that might have some need ...
“They brought Graves to our attention and said there might be some need there and we kind of went from there.”
A representative of Warnock’s office attended the presentation of the new books on Thursday, as did U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Ga., who has been a supporter of Preface.
Bourdeaux said there are additional opportunities to benefit school libraries by getting used, children-friendly books that are made available through the Library of Congress.
“We’re starting that outreach (to schools),” Bourdeaux said. “We had a staff member who came on who said we can take surplus books. Now obviously, we want to take books that are fun books, not ones they’re just trying to get rid of because nobody reads them.
“So, w’re starting to collect those and starting to reach out to schools to see if they’re ones that they would be interested in.”
Wu said Preface also donated “thousands of dollars” worth of healthcare products, such as hand sanitizer, to the school in addition to the books. He said the library donation is just the beginning of the organization’s work with Graves Elementary.
“With every new elementary school we get the honor of supporting, we celebrate the incredible work done by educators day in and day out by donating a legacy gift, just like you see here today, of a brand new library of children’s books,” Wu said.
“(The books are) chosen in consultation with teachers and leaders within the school community, that will help fuel a lifetime of kiddos for generations to come. This new literacy partnership that we’re celebrating today embodies the very best of what can be possible when communities, our nonprofits and our educators are supported by the visionary leaders at the state, the local and the federal levels.”
Gwinnett police catch two drivers racing on Buford Highway in Buford
Two Sugar Hill residents were arrested late Thursday night after a Gwinnett County police officer caught them racing on Buford Highway near the Buford Arena.
The officer was on patrol in the Buford area and saw two vehicles racing on Buford Highway near the intersection at Robert Bell Parkway. The cars were pulled over and Zackary Boyd, 19, and Bennett Jewel, 25, were arrested.
Boyd faces possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana, Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony, Street Racing, and several other traffic charges while Jewel received a street racing citation. Although police said Jewel was arrested, they also said he was released on the scene.
“The dangerous and illegal practices of stunt driving and street racing are a danger to Gwinnett residents on our roads and the Gwinnett Police Department is committed to keeping our roadways safe,” Sgt. J.R. Richter said. “These activities risk injury and even death to participants and other motorists and they damage the roads costing taxpayers for repairs.”
Man arrested in death of wife, stepson-in-law near Tribble Mill Park
A man has been arrested in the death of his wife and his stepdaughter’s husband, who died in a neighborhood on Harbor Bay Drive in unincorporated Lawrenceville on Thursday night, according to Gwinnett County Police.
Lawrenceville resident Bernie Mack, 61, is accused of killing his wife Bridget, 61, and Lawrenceville resident Jeremy Santos, 36, who was married to Mack’s stepdaughter, Briana. Mack has been charged with malice murder, two counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
“Bridget’s daughter, Briana, and her husband Jeremy went to Bridget’s house to check on her after she failed to arrive at Briana’s house,” Cpl. Ryan Winderweedle said on Friday. “They found Bridget deceased from a gunshot wound inside the house.”
Police said Briana and Santos encountered Mack near the entrance to the neighborhood as they were leaving. Mack and Santos then allegedly exchanged gunfire and Santos was shot. Santos died from his wounds.
Officers were called the home at about 6:10 p.m. after someone told 911 dispatchers that someone had been shot in a home on the street.
“When officers arrived, they located a deceased female in house on (Harbor Bay Drive) and a male deceased laying outside of a vehicle further down the street,” Winderweedle said on Thursday night.
“The caller to 911 had provided a description of a possible suspect. Arriving officers located a male matching the description in vicinity of the call.”
Police said on Thursday that they believed the shooting stemmed from a domestic argument.
“Bernie was still on scene when officers arrived,” Winderweedle said on Friday. “He was taken into custody without incident. Detectives believe there was an argument between Bridget and Bernie that lead up to Bridget’s death. The specifics of the motive in the incident are still being investigated.”
Anyone who has information about the shooting is asked to call detectives at 770-513-5300 or Crime Stoppers, which lets tipsters remain anonymous, at 404-577-8477. They can also visit www.stopcrimeATL.com. There is a cash reward offered by Crime Stoppers for information that leads to an arrest and indictment.
Tipsters are asked to reference case No. 220037332.
Gwinnett law enforcement arrests pair accused of home invasions, kidnapping
Local law enforcement arrested two people accused of a home invasion, hijacking a motor vehicle and kidnapping a person in Peachtree Corners on Wednesday.
Gwinnett County Police Officer Sr. Hideshi Valle said Buford resident Jesus Daniel Bibiano Ruiz, 25, and Arkansas resident Wendy Perez, 30, each face home invasion, kidnapping, highjacking a motor vehicle and armed robbery charges. Bibiano Ruiz also faces an aggravated assault against law enforcement charge. Police became aware of the incident based on a 911 call that came in about an incident which happened on Chappell Lane.
“Dispatchers learned there was a male and female (later identified as Jesus Daniel Bibiano Ruiz and Wendy Perez) arguing with the male victim after they forced their way into the residence,” Valle said. “Bibiano Ruiz and Perez kidnapped the victim after taking the keys to his black vehicle.”
Ultimately, Gwinnett police officers and sheriff’s deputies, as well as Sandy Springs K9 units were involved in apprehending Bibiano Ruiz and Perez, but Valle said shots were fired in the process. Ruiz allegedly fired at officers as they arrived at the scene of the home invasion. Meanwhile, Perez was driving the car before they came to a stop on Spalding Lane in Sandy springs.
“Shortly after, Bibiano Ruiz ran away on foot and was located by the Gwinnett Police K9 unit,” Valle said. “Perez was arrested as soon as the car was stopped. During the investigation and interview, both Perez and Bibiano admitted to being at the victim’s home.”
Early voting off to a smooth, albeit light, start in Gwinnett County
Advance in-person voting — or early voting as it’s commonly known — has a history of sometimes getting off to a rough start in Gwinnett County. But county elections supervisor Zach Manifold offered a positive report as early voting for this year’s primary got underway on Monday.
In years past, there had been stories about hours-long lines of voters or machine glitches in the past during early voting. Manifold said none of those issues plagued the county on Day 1 of voting this week, however.
“It’s been a smooth, steady-paced day,” he said. “Everything opened on time and the people that were in line at 7 a.m. were out in 15 to 20 minutes and everything else has just been nice and smooth the rest of the day.”
Gwinnett County is offering voters a total of 19 consecutive days of early voting ahead of the May 24 primary election. That period began Monday and will continue through May 20.
“In the past, (early voting locations have) been rolled out, but this time it’s different,” Manifold said. “We’re open 7 to 7 at all 11 locations — 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. — for 19 straight days. We’ll be here.”
A combined final voter total for the first day of early voting at all 11 advance in-person voting sites in Gwinnett County was not immediately available Monday night, but Manifold said the sites had seen a total of 1,346 voters between all of the sites as of 5 p.m.
In addition to that, the county has so far received 2,274 requests for absentee-by-mail ballots for the primary.
In all, 622,033 people registered to vote in Gwinnett in the primary, according to Manifold.
By mid-afternoon on Monday, there was no line to vote at the Beauty P. Baldwin Board of Voter Registrations and Elections building in Lawrenceville. People were trickling in a handful at a time.
Manifold said there were benefits to having to a light turnout for the beginning of early voting, since the elections office has to implement changes made to state voting laws last year.
Although Gwinnett’s cities held elections last year, the county’s elections office has not overseen an election since before the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 202 in spring 2021.
“I think this is a great opportunity for us to get back into the flow of it,” Manifold said. “It’s been a year-and-a-half since Gwinnett last had a county election, so this is just a good pace for us to just be able to implement a lot of the new requirements and law changes.”
One key change that affects absentee-by-mail voting is that Senate Bill 202 put limits on how many absentee ballot drop boxes a county is allowed to have.
In 2020, there was no limit so Gwinnett had 23 drop boxes. The total allowed now is based on one for every 100,000 registered voters. That means Gwinnett is only allowed to have six drop boxes, and they have to be located inside advance in-person voting locations and can only be accessed while those voting locations are open.
Since there are more advance in-person voting locations that there are drop boxes that the county is allowed to use, however, some locations do not have a drop box.
“(Voters) should go online to our website to get a list of the advance in-person locations that have a drop box at them,” Manifold said. “We haven’t had a ton of questions (from voters) yet. It’s probably because there’s not a huge volume of absentee-by-mail applications yet.”
Manifold said changes to state voting laws that affect the window to apply for absentee ballots means voters have until May 13 to submit a request for one.
Another change that voters will see this year is the switch to non-partisan Gwinnett school board elections. This will be the first time that has been implemented, with those races appearing on the Republican, Democratic and Nonpartisan ballots (the nonpartisan ballots are for people who only want to vote in the nonpartisan races rather than also voting in GOP or Democratic primary races).
Only school board districts 2 and 4 will appear on this year’s ballots.
“When our staff is out talking to people, that’s one of the key points that we like to remind people of, that if you live in one of those districts and you want to vote for school board this year, you’ve got to do it in May,” Manifold said. “You can’t wait until November. It’s not going to be on the ballot in November.”
But, Monday also marked a key rollout in Gwinnett’s language equity plans for elections.
The county, which is required by federal law to provide elections materials in English and Spanish, is in the process of adding voting paperwork in four Asian languages: Korean, Vietnamese, Mandarin and Cantonese.
Sample ballots for the primary election that are written in Korean, Vietnamese and Mandarin were posted on the county’s elections website on Monday.
Manifold said the elections office has been working with community leaders from the various Asian communities participating in collaboration groups to verify translations.
“We working with those collaboration groups just to make sure (the translations are accurate),” Manifold said. “We always give the example of House of Representatives. The House of Representatives isn’t a house, so sometimes, when somebody literally translates something into another language, that context kind of goes out the window.
“It’s been really exciting to watch the collaboration groups as they have walked through all of these offices.”
Lawrenceville announces summer concert series schedule
Lawrenceville officials announced this year’s Live in the DTL summer concert series will feature a Juneteenth celebration as well as tributes to the Spice Girls, Toto, Gloria Estefan and Guns N Roses.
The city released details on five installments in this year’s concert series. The concerts will take place on the Lawrenceville Lawn with food trucks opening at 6 p.m. at each concert to serve food to attendees, although concert goers are also encouraged to visit the many restaurants located in downtown Lawrenceville.
“The city of Lawrenceville’s events team has worked hard to diversify the acts brought to Lawrenceville for the summer concert series,” Mayor David Still said. “With fresh musical artists, unique shops, and outstanding restaurants, Lawrenceville aims to create a unique Friday night experience.”
This year’s series will be sponsored by Consolidated Pipe & Supply Company Inc. and Lawrenceville Utilities. The first concert will be held on May 20 with Nightrain performing a tribute to Guns N Roses. The city will also get a head start on Juneteenth with a concert by Dane Caston and Baby Rose on June 17, two days before the actual Juneteenth holiday.
Attendees will be allowed to bring lawn chairs or blankets, but they are forbidden from bringing grills or anything else with an open flame. City officials said they will release VIP details on social media and the Downtown Lawrenceville tourism website, www.downtownlawrencevillega.com, for each concert.