The Atlanta Police Department is investigating a shooting in Buckhead that led to a 7-year-old girl being hospitalized.

According to a preliminary news release, Dec. 21 at about 9 p.m., officers responded to a 911 call from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite in Sandy Springs about a child being shot. At the hospital, investigators spoke to the victim’s aunt, who said she was driving the girl and her mother by Phipps Plaza mall, located at 3500 Peachtree Road, when she heard several gunshots. The police later identified the girl as Kennedy Maxie.

“The aunt continued to drive and a short time later noticed that the victim was acting strangely,” the release stated. “The aunt realized the child had been shot and drove to the hospital, where the victim was taken into surgery in critical condition.”

At a Dec. 22 news conference addressing the incident, interim Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant called it “a senseless shooting” and said it “derived from individuals unable to resolve a situation civilly.”

Lt. Pete Malecki, the police’s homicide commander, said the police are still gathering information on the case.

“We do know there was a dispute involving multiple males in the parking lot of Saks Fifth Avenue. What we don’t know yet (is) if (it) led to the shooting,” he said.

Malecki said the department has received video surveillance footage from the time of the incident and is reviewing it, later adding the police don’t yet know how many possible suspects there are or how many brandished and fired weapons during the dispute.

“As we go through that video, I’m sure that in the very near future we will release some images out to the public in hopes of getting (suspects) identified,” he said.

Malecki added he believes the men arguing do not know the victim or her family. He said Crime Stoppers Atlanta, which normally offers a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and indictment of one or more suspects, has increased the reward to $10,000, thanks to donations from the Buckhead Coalition and the Atlanta Police Foundation.

Bryant said Maxie was shot in the back of the head and remains in critical condition.

Maj. Andrew Senzer, commander of Zone 2, the area which includes Buckhead, said the department is putting considerable resources into securing Phipps and Lenox Square malls, the latter of which has seen a recent increase in crime, including three shootings inside its stores in the past two months. The police also have a precinct at Lenox.

“When something like this happens in our zone, we take it personally,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to be here talking about senseless acts of violence.”

Simon Property Group, the Indianapolis-based company that owns Lenox and Phipps, Dec. 14 announced it soon is adding metal detectors to all Lenox entrances to help combat crime. Senzer said the detectors have already been installed.

Dec. 2, the Buckhead Security Plan, a strategy of adding a group of off-duty police officers to augment the police’s efforts by patrolling the community’s commercial district to combat crime, was released. A partnership of 11 organizations, the plan is also known as Buckhead Blue and will include, initially, two vehicles and four off-duty officers. The off-duty cops will rotate taking daily six-hour shifts on Tuesdays through Sundays, and there are plans to expand the program.

Buckhead Blue was also implemented to help address a decrease in the police force, from about 2,000 officers during Mayor Kasim Reed's administration to about 1,600 today.

In a statement in reaction to the shooting, District 7 Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook, who represents the area where both malls are, said he is upset “about this latest and most painful example of the utter lawlessness that defines what it means to live in Atlanta.”

Shook has proposed giving police officers bonuses if they commit to staying with the department for a certain period of time, and said he is furious about “the steady outflow of our officers” from the force.

“It will take a lot to turn this around,” he said. “But here, in descending order, are the three things we need to begin: 1). Leadership; 2). Some Leadership; 3). Any leadership.”

Anyone with information on the incident and any possible suspects is asked to contact Crime Stoppers Atlanta by calling or texting 404-577-8477 or visiting atlantapolicefoundation.org/programs/crime-stoppers. Individuals do not have to give their name or any identifying information to be eligible for the reward.

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