UPDATE:Birmingham police on Monday said four men and two women were shot in Gate City Sunday night – two of them with life-threatening injuries. Bobby Clayton, 20, died and the other remains hospitalized.
The preliminary investigation shows one of the victims is a teen who had a previous altercation with a black male seen driving a red Ford Mustang. Witnesses told police that both men started shooting at each other, and that it appeared the teen started shooting first. The person in the red Mustang recklessly returned fire, striking several people that were in the area including the victim.
“This calculated shooting was between individuals who had no regards for human life and unfortunately their actions resulted in someone losing their life,” he said. “So sad.”
Edwards identified the person of interest as Johnathan Chambers. Edwards Chambers isn’t in custody. “We need to talk to him,” he said.
EARLIER STORY: Gunfire erupted in Birmingham’s Gate City public housing community Sunday night, killing one person and injuring five others.
The shooting happened at 8:15 p.m. in the 6400 block of Georgia Road. Birmingham police spokesman Sgt. Bryan Shelton said all six of the victims were innocent bystanders. The shootings took place about one hour after the close of a peace rally in the community’s Lewis Park.
Shelton said many of the residents were still outside following the event. Once the gunfire started, people began to scatter. “When the shooting started happening, people started dispersing, which is why our scene is as large as it is,” he said.
Of the surviving five victims, he said none are critical. Police as of 11 p.m. were still unsure of the age or gender breakdown of the victims, but at least one and possibly two, were female.
The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office Monday morning confirmed the victim’s identity as Bobby Clayton, 20. Within two hours of the shooting, more than 50 people had posted their memories of Clayton on his Facebook page.
Resident Xavier Story, 23, was just finishing his son’s 1-year-old birthday party. Friends and family had been grilling and were taking down the moonwalk when the shots rang out right around the corner.
“I ran and tried to grab all the kids and get them inside,” Story said. “I’m getting as low as I can and trying to get my family in the house.”
After getting the partygoers to safety, Story went back outside of his corner apartment where one of the victims collapsed. The victim, Clayton, had a gunshot wound to the left upper side.
“As soon as he fell, that was the end of it,” Story said. “He had a pulse and we were fanning him and telling him, ‘They’re coming, they’re coming.'”
Story said they grabbed towels and applied them to his friend’s wounds. That victim died either en route to the hospital, or shortly after arrival. “I kept trying to save that baby,” said one woman who was sobbing nearby. “They’re dying too young.”
The rest of the victims, witnesses say, were spread out over the entire block. “I’m just shook up right now,” he said. “It’s the scariest thing ever in my life.”
Gate City residents described chaos as the bullets rang out. One woman, who lived just yards from where the shooting erupted, said she was sitting on the front porch. As bullets flew, she grabbed the legs of a man in a wheelchair to pull him out of the chair and to the ground. She said one of her children got out of the car just as the gunfire started, and she yelled for her to run into the apartment.
Another resident was close by as well. “We heard a shot ring out, and then we heard multiple shots, more than a dozen,” she said, asking that her name not be used. “I told the kids to run into the house and then I ran into the house.”
Another resident, a mother of four, said she had attended the anti-violence gathering earlier in the day. She said there were about 300 people there – many of them children – and said there activities set up for the kids.
“It was peaceful like it was supposed to be,” she said. “Everybody had a good time. I never would have thought that this would happen.”
Police say as many as 60 shots were fired, likely from multiple guns. They said they believe one person fired and then the others joined in. As of 11 p.m., crime scene investigators had logged 34 pieces of evidence with a lot more to go. Police said in addition to the spent shell casings, there were numerous bullets in the street that had not been fired.
Sunday’s shooting happened at the same intersection – Georgia Road and Joppa Court – where there was an officer-involved shooting just three days earlier. That shooting happened just after 4:30 p.m. Thursday when police received a call about an armed man near the intersection. There was a crowd outside – including numerous young children – and the suspect was spewing vulgarities.
Officers began to chase the suspect and the officer’s gun discharged, wounding Willie James Burrell. An officer was taken to the hospital with minor injuries – cuts and bruises – but is OK.
Sunday’s shooting followed a similar incident several weeks ago – Aug. 27 – in Brighton where one man was killed and six others injured when more than 700 people were celebrating “Love Thy Neighbor Day” near the community center on Seventh Avenue and gunfire erupted at around dusk.
Of Sunday’s shooting in Gate City, Shelton said it was disappointing that something like this would happen in a community that was trying to come together against violence. “There’s no excuse for it. It is senseless,” Shelton said. “It is disheartening, but we’re going to continue to try to work hard and seek justice.”