Police, school officials respond to rumors of gang violence

By Ed Brock

Rumors persist of possible gang violence in connection with the shooting death of a Forest Park High School graduate in October.

School officials sent a letter home to parents concerning the rumors that have circulated since the Oct. 25 shooting of 19-year-old Devon Gates at a birthday party. Police patrols have also been increased around the high school.

"That is a precaution. Even the letter says it's just rumors," said Forest Park Police Capt. Chris Matson.

The school system is just being "proactive" in sending out the letter, said Clayton County Area Assistant Superintendent Jackie Hubbert.

Matson said there have been no specific incidents that the police can connect to the shooting. Vap Chhoum, 28, of College Park, has been charged with murder and possession of a weapon in the commission of a crime in connection with that shooting and remains in Clayton County Jail pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for Nov. 20.

Clayton County police, who are also patrolling near the school, said previously that Chhoum and Gates bumped into each other at the party, got into an argument and Chhoum then shot Gates in the face. Chhoum admitted to the shooting, and the gun used in the crime was found in his possession, Clayton County police Capt. Jeff Turner said.

The rumors of violence led school officials to cancel last week's homecoming parade at Morrow High School where Gates brother plays football. The Gates family said at that time that they have heard the rumors but they don't know why they started.

Chhoum's family said they have not received any threats.

The letter sent home parents from Forest Park High School discussed gang colors, Matson said, but he couldn't confirm that it asked for students to not where those colors to school.

Some parents went to the school Friday and did not notice anything out of the ordinary, but some responded angrily to the rumors. An information meeting has been scheduled to be held at the school on Tuesday.