Victim's mother explodes in court

By Ed Brock

Vap Chhoum's presence in the same courtroom led Kimberly Gates, mother of the 19-year-old Chhoum is accused of shooting to death, to break down in tears.

When the judge asked Chhoum if he planned to hire his own attorney, Gates began to shout.

"You don't need a lawyer, you don't need one, you don't need one," Gates said.

Family and friends of Chhoum, who is charged with murder and possession of a weapon in the commission of a crime, also began crying as Gates was escorted from the courtroom at Tuesday's first appearance.

Police say Chhoum shot Devon Gates early Sunday morning during a birthday party for a 17-year-old girl in Forest Park. The Clayton County Fugitive Squad arrested Chhoum Monday night at a hotel on Mt. Zion Parkway.

During Tuesday's hearing a date of Nov. 6 was set for Chhoum's preliminary hearing with a bond hearing set for Nov. 7. Chhoum said he would hire an attorney, but his sister Sar Chhoum and other family and friends said they didn't know yet who his attorney would be.

Sar Chhoum said she understood how Kimberly Gates felt.

"She lost someone, I lost someone, too," Chhoum said.

Chhoum's family members and friends also said that it was unfair to blame Chhoum entirely for the shooting and said Chhoum got caught in the middle of a fight that was already going on between Devon Gates and his friends and friends of Chhoum. They also said that Gates had been firing a gun previously during the party, but Clayton County police Capt. Jeff Turner said that no gun was found on Gates after the incident and he could neither confirm nor deny that another fight had occurred prior to the shooting.

Turner said previously that witnesses had told police that Gates and Chhoum began arguing after bumping into each other at the party. The argument became physical and Chhoum then shot Gates in the face.

Chhoum confessed to shooting Gates and led investigators to the weapon used in the shooting, a 9 mm handgun.

The funeral for Gates, who played football at Forest Park High School and had planned to go to college, will be held Saturday at Paradise Church of God in Christ on Conley Road in Forest Park, said Gates' uncle Raymond Gates. He will be buried in Lincoln Cemetery on Simpson Road in Atlanta.

"You know that tingly feeling you get about something that's really wonderful. That describes Devon all the way," Raymond Gates said.