Kidnapped child returned, mother in critical condition

By Ed Brock

A man accused of shooting a Riverdale woman in the parking lot of her apartment complex and taking her 2-month-old daughter turned himself in to police hours after the incident Wednesday afternoon.

Within hours of the incident the baby was returned safely as the suspect walked into the police station to turn himself in.

Johansson Gatson, 24, of Riverdale, has been charged with aggravated assault and kidnapping in connection with the incident that occurred around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at Amberwoods Apartments, Riverdale Police Officer Debra Johnson said.

The shooting victim, believed to be in her 20s, whose name was not released by police, was taken to Southern Regional Medical Center where she underwent surgery and was listed in critical condition, Johnson said. Her boyfriend Jason Swafford, father of the kidnapped girl Amya Jatoria Swafford, said the woman had been shot in the neck.

As police swarmed the area and looked for the kidnapped baby, Swafford made a plea for the attacker to bring the baby back unharmed.

Paul Weathers, commander of the criminal investigations division for the Riverdale Police, said a knife about the size of a steak knife was recovered from the scene. There was one report the victim was wielding the knife at the time of the attack, but Weathers said he could not confirm this.

Weathers said investigators are trying to pin down the relationship between the accused and the victim, but they may have been boyfriend and girlfriend at one time.

Johnson said the girl's mother and Gatson knew each other. She said Gatson had no legal rights to Amya.

Weathers said investigators believe there may have been a prearranged meeting between the two in the parking lot.

Several witnesses saw the attack and the police received several calls for help at the same time, Weathers said.

After interrogating Gatson, Riverdale police transferred him to the Clayton County Jail around 8:30 p.m.

Gatson gave no motive to Johnson about what happened between Amya's mother and him in the parking lot outside the mother's apartment earlier that afternoon.

"He mostly just talked to the baby," Johnson said.

"We should know more about the motive in the morning," Weathers said.

Gatson "literally just walked in the door" at the Riverdale Police Department around 6 p.m., Johnson said, and he was carrying the baby who was not harmed.

Swafford picked up his daughter from the police station. Johnson said police had issued an Amber Alert and a Levi's Call, the national and state alert systems used to notify the public and law enforcement when a child has been abducted, before Gatson turned himself in.

Earlier Swafford said he was sleeping when the shooting occurred. He didn't hear the gunshot, but when he awoke he looked outside and saw Amya's mother lying on the ground.

"I kept on looking and saw my baby's blanket lying outside," Swafford said. "I got up, put on some clothes and went outside."

Swafford's upstairs neighbor Tavaris Williams said he did hear the gunshot and looked out to see a man driving away in a green Isuzu Rodeo and the woman lying on the ground. He then called 911.