published Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Guns blaze, eighth-grader dies; retaliation feared after boy killed at Chattanooga home

HAVE INFORMATION?

Anyone with any information about the shooting is asked to call Chattanooga police at 423-698-2525 or Crime Stoppers at 423-698-3333.

Hours after an eighth-grader was shot and killed at the doorway of his East 50th Street home, neighbors watched and waited for more blood.

East Lake Academy of Fine Arts student Deontrey Southers, 13, wasn't the intended target, police and neighbors say. But he was the latest victim in an ongoing retaliation between rival gangs, the Athens Park Bloods and Bounty Hunter Bloods.

"I guarantee you tonight there will be more -- two to three more killings or somebody will get shot in the process," said one neighborhood resident who declined to give his name out of fear of retaliation.

As many as 11 bullet holes riddled the two-story blue house at 1501 E. 50th St. where the boy known as Trey was struck around 11:30 p.m. Monday. He was shot once in the chest with a rifle. His mother found him wounded downstairs in their home. He died on the way to the hospital.

A stray round went through a nearby home where a woman and two small children were inside.

"Whoever knows [who did this] needs to go and tell someone. That's the only way we're going stop all of this," said the woman, who was afraid to give her name. "All they're going to do is retaliate against whoever they know done it. Then, they're going to retaliate back. It's just going to keep going back and forth."

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, who hopes to have his public safety initiative rolled out in the next couple of months to help stem the tide of violence, said this shooting in particular struck a chord. His daughter is a 13-year-old eighth-grader.

"We have an innocent victim. We have innocent neighbors," Berke said in an interview. "Whether the bullet went through your home or not, there are a lot of people who are in fear because of these incidents. We've been working to get Chattanooga Violence Reduction Initiative off the ground for exactly these reasons. We aren't powerless to do anything."

The initiative focuses on the city's violence. Offenders are shown the evidence against them and offered a chance: change their lives or spend a long time in a federal prison.

"In the meantime, we are using every possible resource to find the people who are responsible for last night's shooting and to prevent retaliation in whatever way possible," Berke said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Deontrey's uncle, Rodney "Rah-Rah" Southers, a Rollin 20's Bloods member, was picked up on a domestic assault warrant with a $10,000 bond. He was placed on a 12-hour hold. The hope is he will stay locked up until tempers calm or investigators find Deontrey's killer or killers.

Police were also looking to pick up others who might try to retaliate.

  • photo
    Bullet holes are visible Tuesday in the exterior of a home on East 50th Street where a 13-year-old boy was shot to death Monday night in Chattanooga.
    Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Meanwhile, Deontrey's family gathered at his grandmother's house on Usher Street, and messages of mourning and photos of the teen went up on social media sites. The family declined comment for this report.

He is remembered as a boy who loved to play football. His academics were improving.

"Just a typical middle school kid. Middle school is always those rocky years. Then, in eighth grade, you see them start seeing the light. And that's what we saw in him," said Lakesha Carson, principal of East Lake Academy of Fine Arts.

He looked forward to high school.

"We're just doing what we can to stay strong for the student body and the faculty," she said. "We had counselors to speak with the students. They've made cards and signs and letters to the family. We're going to go by the family's house today to see how we can better support them through this time."

The teenager was the second victim of a homicide in Chattanooga this year.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.

Got information?

Anyone with any information about the shooting is asked to call Chattanooga police at 423-698-2525 or Crime Stoppers at 423-698-3333.

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