By Ed Brock
Clayton County police say the link between the theft of a gun by gang members and threats against a Pointe South Middle School student is coincidental.
Clayton County Public Schools released a statement Wednesday evening criticizing media reports about the incident, saying there was no evidence linking the events and referring to "what we believe to be unfounded statements ... issued to the contrary."
At least some of the four minors, ages 12 to 15, arrested Monday in connection with the burglary in which the gun was stolen are members of the "Murks" gang, Clayton County Police Department Capt. Jeff Turner said. Some of them were also students at Pointe South, the school where the Murks planned to kill a student on Tuesday, according to an anonymous tipster who called a local television station.
A 16-year-old boy who supposedly bought the gun was also arrested, along with a woman who is a substitute teacher for Clayton County Public Schools who police say covered for the 16-year-old who is her cousin. None of the teens' names were released due to their status as minors, and the stolen gun has not yet been recovered.
Friday afternoon or evening the anonymous tipster made the call to the television station regarding the possible gang attack, but did not identify a particular student as the target, Turner said. The television station then called Clayton County Public Schools spokesman Charles White.
White said he called the principal at Pointe South to inform him of the threat but the school's student resource officer had already left for the day. Turner said the SRO learned about the threat on Monday.
Monday at 7:30 a.m. the four youths kicked in the back door of a house on Ansley Way in Jonesboro, Turner said. They came inside and took video game consoles and a Ruger P-95 9 mm handgun belonging to the resident of the house, 25-year-old Tika Carter.
"I had it for a year and never used it," Carter said.
Carter's husband, Dwayne Carter, went looking for the burglars and confronted one of them he saw carrying a backpack that had been taken from the house.
"In a way it was kind of scary because they had the weapon," Dwayne Carter said.
Police came and took the one boy into custody, and based on his statements they were able to track down the other three suspects. They were found in possession of several items from the house, but not the gun.
The teens told police they had sold the gun to the 16-year-old boy who was also arrested. Investigators went to the Pointe South Apartments residence where the teens said the boy lived. They spoke with 27-year-old Kim Beatty, the substitute teacher, and asked her if there was somebody else beside her and her young son living at the apartment.
Beatty told police that nobody else lived there, so the investigators went back to the four teens.
"The juveniles were adamant that the 16-year-old that they sold the gun to did live in that apartment," Turner said.
Detectives returned to the apartment and confronted Beatty, telling her it was illegal to lie to the police. At that point Beatty said her cousin from North Carolina was staying with her, and when police talked to him he matched the description of the boy to whom the teens said they sold the gun.
Turner said the 16-year-old has been charged with theft by receiving, giving a false name to police, possession of a firearm by a minor, tampering with evidence and selling a pistol to a minor. Turner said investigators are still searching the area around the apartment for the gun.
Turner also said the 16-year-old apparently socializes with the teens involved in the burglary, but there is no evidence connecting him to a gang. He was not enrolled in a school and Beatty told police she was waiting for guardianship papers to come in the mail before enrolling him.
Police arrested Beatty on Tuesday and charged her with giving false information to police officers. Turner said they take her actions very seriously.
"If she had told us the truth from the beginning we possibly could have recovered that handgun," Turner said. "But now that gun is still at large."
Beatty had worked as a substitute at several schools since qualifying as a substitute teacher in October, White said. She is currently being subjected to a Department of Human Resources investigation to determine the appropriate action that should be taken in her case.
Tika and Dwayne Carter say they are concerned that the gun was not recovered. Tika Carter said their 11-year-old son knew the teens.
"They have been fighting with him ever since we moved into the neighborhood in July this year," Carter said.
To her knowledge they never asked him to join a gang.
One of the teens had gang-related slogans and symbols on his hat. The Murks, or the Murk Mob (also spelled Merk, according to the police report on the incident), is a relatively new gang that has been "marking its territory" with graffiti around the Thomas Road and Flint River Road area.
White said there was no physical evidence of gang activity at Pointe South Middle School. White also released the statement from the school system that said statements released by police seemed to link the burglary and the threat.
"The Clayton County Public Schools would like to clarify and correct some of the reports that have been broadcast in the media regarding Monday's arrest of four middle schools students and a substitute teacher," the statement read. "To our knowledge there is no evidence that has linked these two incidents. Despite this fact, what we believe to be unfounded statements have been issued to the contrary. We want our community to have the most accurate information about our students, staff and schools. We request that the media and the police examine carefully the facts of this matter and present information that is both accurate and responsible."
"Should evidence be found by the Clayton County Police to link these two disparate incidents, we support the dissemination of such information. Until that time we encourage the media to refrain from developing reports and reporting same."