Gangs, guns and drugs: College Park, South Fulton police target violent crimes in their communities

SOUTH FULTON, Ga. — Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne got unprecedented access as police went on raids to bust up drug dealers and those who police said are causing some of the most violent crimes through the south metro.

During the raid in the city of South Fulton, police found a gun and much more as they went through an apartment they said was frequented by two suspected gang members.

“It’s going to be crack laced with fentanyl,” said Lt. Shannon McKesey with the city of South Fulton’s police narcotics and gang units.

The apartment was in a complex that straddles the line between South Fulton and College Park.

Police said they found an illegal sawed-off shotgun. McKesey said there was also a kit to give a handgun a fearsome shoulder mount.

Agents also found ammo that was “military-grade, armor-piercing. It will go right through our body armor,” McKesey said.

“We have packages of marijuana. We also have some suspected MDMA pills, which they use as far as ecstasy or Percocet or anything like that. We also have scales,” McKesey pointed out to Winne.

McKesey’s boss, city of South Fulton Police Chief Keith Meadows, told Winne that targeting gangs and drugs are key to a strategy that’s driving crime down in his city — at a time when violent crime has spiked elsewhere.

Within the city of South Fulton, stats through May 8 show murders are down 50% this year compared to roughly the same time last year.

“We’ve identified who our gang members are, our violent offenders, our drug dealers, and we’re making it a point to actively pursue those individuals,” Meadows said. “We’re looking at four homicides as opposed to eight this time last year.”

The city has also seen drops in seven of eight major crime categories. The exception — rapes. Up from two to eight.

Meadows said the strategy is grounded in what he learned as an Atlanta police homicide commander.

“I found that almost 80% of our murders during the 11 years that I was over the homicide unit there were either directly related to narcotics or gangs,” Meadows said.

“Are there critics that say, ‘Hey, you’re going after the small fry?’” Winne asked Meadows.

“Yeah. There are those people that say those things, but what we look at are the violent tendencies and the violent histories of our offenders,” Meadows said.

In an apartment downstairs from the one raided, David Jones said he’s got more than two dozen bullet holes in his walls.

“My apartment’s (been) shot up three times,” Jones said.

“You’re an innocent victim of gunfire apparently intended for somebody else?” Winne asked Jones.

“Yes, sir,” Jones said.

Jones said he doesn’t know who shot up his apartment. He told Winne that he’s a hardworking man with a good job who does what’s right, but bullets had flown into his bedroom twice, including recently.

“I heard a big boom. And soon as I woke up, I seen my curtains, you know, flapping. First thing I do is jump on the floor,” Jones said. “I’m praying for nothing to happen to me and nobody else out there too because I don’t really know what’s going on.”

“Prayers answered?” Winne asked Jones.

“Oh yeah. Prayers are answered,” Jones said. “I’m a God-fearing man. I’m a believer, yes. Only my angels been there to protect me. As far as the sleep now, I got to sleep in my tub. My bed’s in my tub.”

“Because your apartments been shot up so many times?” Winne asked Jones.

“Yes, sir. Blankets and my pillows in there now,” Jones said.

A College Park police investigator, Ivory Morris, said candles burning downstairs from the raid scene make up a memorial where someone shot a young man last June.

“We got called for shots fired in the area,” Morris said. “I raced to the scene.”

But Morris said what was burned in his memory is that young man gasping for breath and dying.

“It hurts. You wish you could do more. But we tried to do all we could. Get him some help as quick as possible. Unfortunately, with all these guns on the street. We try to get them off the street just for that purpose,” he said.

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Morris said he’s in a crime suppression unit that responded to another shooting in the same place just days ago.

“Most of the time we get here quick enough to catch these guys,” Morris said.

As for the raid, police said they believe they know who the suspect is behind the drug house, but McKesey said she believes he got a warning from a lookout and took off leaving his phone, keys and ID.

Warrants have been issued for the person.

McKesey said the bullets riddling Jones’ apartment were clearly directed at someone else, and Jones is an innocent victim.