ALBANY — Two people were killed and three more were wounded Thursday morning in a shooting incident at 1510 Maryland Drive in Albany.
“Around about 10:46 a.m., we received a call to the 1500 block of Maryland Drive in reference to a shooting,” Albany Police Department Chief Michael Persley said at the scene Thursday. “Upon arrival, we did find several victims who were inside the residence. At this time right now, we do have two people who are deceased from this call along with the other three victims. One who had a gunshot wound that was non-life threatening and two others who have non-life threatening wounds. So, we have five victims total.”
According to Persley, APD officers quickly began a search for the suspect, Jessie Clarence Brown Jr., 31, who authorities say fled in a white 2004 Dodge Ram 2500 pickup truck. Brown was apprehended a short while later, taken into custody and has been charged with two counts of murder and two counts of aggravated assault, according to officials.
Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler identified the two slain women as Brenda Forrester, 67, and Keyon Branch, 24. APD spokeswoman Phyllis Banks said the other three people who were shot were males.
Later reports from Banks stated the three males who were shot are 16-year-old Treva Somerset, who suffered a head injury; Billy Branch, no age given, who also suffered a head injury, and Qua’Shawn Branch, 19, who was shot multiple times and was listed in critical condition, according to detectives.
APD reports also state Brown is believed to have been in an “ongoing” relationship with Keyon Branch for three years and that Forrester is her grandmother. Qua’Shawn Branch is Keyon Branch’s cousin, the reports said.
The city of Albany is off to a deadly start to 2017 with Thursday’s double homicide occurring just days after a powerful tornado ripped through south Albany, killing four and leaving a 2-year-old boy missing.
The Maryland Drive homicides, occurring 38 days earlier in the calendar year than the first homicide of 2016, continue a violent trend that emerged in 2016. According to data obtained from the Albany City Attorney’s office and the Dougherty County District Attorney’s office, the city experienced 15 homicides in 2016, the last one occurring on Christmas Day — a total nearly double the number of homicides from the previous year.
From March 6 through Dec. 25, 2016, 13 males (including one child) and two female children violently lost their lives in Albany. Although the victims’, suspects’ and/or perpetrators’ ages and sex varied, all who have died, been arrested, charged or tried because of these crimes, have been African Americans.
Of the 15 cases, only one has not resulted in an arrest. According to the Dougherty County District Attorney’s office, that incident is gang-related, as are the suspects, whose names have not been released.
“This city is a majority black jurisdiction, so, at some level you would expect that,” Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards said of the demographics. “Most of the people here, most of the people that do crimes and most of the victims, are going to be black, just as a matter of hard numbers.
“I’ll say this, I am of the opinion that all lives matter and there are folks that would say that this type of thing is counter …” his voice trailing as he points to a stack of 2016 homicide reports. “I mean, if black people don’t get up and march about this (points to police reports again) just like in Chicago and other places where you have a large black population and most of the victims are black, why aren’t you marching about that?
“Certainly, for the folks that find the Black Lives Matter movement offensive or ineffective, because of this, it would be incumbent upon — and as a black person who is involved with both the law enforcement, prosecution and cultural aspects of it, like I said, I think it is important for all of these cases to be dealt with — we should get up in arms about all these cases and not just the ones where a police officer is involved.”
The increase of deadly violence in Albany is what Edwards calls “dramatic,” with the majority of the homicides classified as escalated domestic violence, gang activity or drug-related.
“The biggest portion of these crimes seems to be domestic-type circumstances,” Edwards said. “So, how do we assess that? Then we have these others that are gang-related and drug-related, where law enforcement has a good protocol about taking people into custody.”
According to Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime statistic reports and information from City-Data.com, the 2016 homicide total in Albany was the highest it’s been in at least 14 years, giving Albany a violent crime rate more than double the national average.
The U.S. violent crime rate average is around 202.6 incidents per 100,000 people per year. Albany/Dougherty County’s violent crime rate average is around 550.6 incidents per year.
Officials with the Albany Police Department have been unwilling to discuss the increase in deadly violence, and particularly black-on-black crime, in the city.
Fowler, however, as coroner has seen each of the crimes and says violence among African Americans is a major problem in Albany and America.
“I know sometimes drugs are involved, but in society today, people are killing people like they are killing roaches and don’t think nothing of it,” said Fowler. “A lot of them, I guess, think they can get by with it, but the drugs and the gangs are two different things that have spiked things up some. They have no consideration for people’s lives anymore. It is easy to get hold of a gun now. It’s not like it was years ago, when I was growing up. People would fist-fight and tomorrow be back friends.
“Now there is deadly retaliation, and I believe it may get worse with the way society and the world are going. People don’t want to take a decent job and go to work, they would rather steal from someone else. Most of it is black-on-black. We do it to ourselves. That is reality. We need to face the facts. It is not just in Albany. If you look at TV, if you see a murder, nine times out of 10 it is black-on-black crime. It shouldn’t be that way.”
The list of homicides from 2016 includes:
On March 6, 2016, Tony Carter, 40, was shot in the chest at point-blank range during an argument at Applejax Sports Bar on East Broad Avenue. Eugene Grant, 33, was arrested for the crime and charged with aggravated assault and murder, malicious murder and possession of a firearm by a felon while in commission of a crime.
On March 9, 2016, Nyelle Garrison, a 2-year-old girl, was found dead, hidden in a bedroom at Rivercrest Apartments. According to reports, the child died from asphyxiation. On June 6, Clarion Garrison, 29, the child’s mother, was arrested for the crime and charged with malice murder, felony murder, felony cruelty to children and aggravated assault.
On March 30, 2016, James Winchester, 61, was beaten during a fight and later died from his injuries. Mitchell Wayne Cullen, 51, was arrested for the crime and charged with aggravated assault and felony murder.
On April 13, 2016, Herbert Mitchell, 56, and Brian Collier, 36, shot each other at Nottingham North Apartments on Dawson Road. Both men died.
“In the case of Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Collier, we don’t know who was trying to murder who or if one of them was just standing his ground,” Edwards said. “In this case, dead men tell no tales. All we know is that they killed each other.”
On April 16, 2016, Charles Anthony Porter, 39, was stabbed in the thigh during an argument and later died from his wounds. Kamesha Jackson, 34, was charged with aggravated assault and murder.
On Aug. 3, 2016, Jacqueline Sanders, 54, stabbed and killed Zakyria Sanders, a 6-year-old girl, before setting the house on fire, leading to her own death and the death of Jaylan Barr, a 7-year-old boy. Sanders also stabbed Isaiah Gates, 10, but he survived.
On Aug. 16, 2016, Hasan Malik McAllister, 43, was shot on the 1900 block of West Gordon Avenue and later died at the hospital. Edwin Reeves Jr., 27, was arrested and charged with murder.
On Aug. 24, 2016, Darius Keys, 19, was found inside a Honda Accord at Cedar Avenue Apartments with a gunshot wound to the head. Keys later died at the hospital. DeAntre Butler, 19, was apprehended in Mitchell County and returned to Albany. He was charged with murder.
On Oct. 13, 2016, Dexter Covin, 43, and L.C. Tumblin Jr. were both shot outside a residence on East Road and both later died. Travis Lavell Price, 40, turned himself in and was charged with two counts of murder.
On Dec. 11, 2016, the body of Justin King, 24, was found beside the railroad tracks on the 1000 block of East Broad Avenue. According to the Dougherty County District Attorney’s office, suspects are actively being sought, and the incident was gang-related.
On Dec. 17, 2016, Curtis Raymond Davis, 36, was shot on the 600 block of Tift Avenue and died from his wounds. Three individuals have been arrested in connection with the crime: Brian Massey, 29, charged with conspiracy to commit felony murder and aggravated assault; Berrick Redding, 21, charged with conspiracy to commit felony murder and aggravated assault, and Cordarrius Clay, 22, charged with felony murder and aggravated assault.
Finally, on Dec. 25, 2016, Dacy Demond Robinson, 39, after a domestic dispute, was stabbed and killed by Crystal Hayes, 39. Reports indicate that, following a violent altercation between Robinson and Hayes, Hayes stabbed Robinson, who died from his injuries. According to the Dougherty County District Attorney’s office, Hayes has not been charged with homicide because of the nature of the incident. Hayes was charged with tampering with evidence.