By Daniel Silliman
After a 19-year-old man reportedly started a fire Tuesday, then damaged cars and merchandise at a gas station, he was shot to death when he allegedly threatened Clayton County Sheriff's deputies with a knife.
The man was identified, by family members and witnesses, as David Nave, Jr., of Jonesboro.
State and local authorities say the man lunged at a deputy with a knife, but family members and others question the shooting. Veronica Nave, who identified herself as Nave's stepmother, said the 19-year-old was shot four times in the back.
"He was running away," she said. "He had put his hands up."
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is probing the shooting, something it often does at the request of the involved agency. GBI agents recovered a knife at the scene, said John Bankhead, a spokesman for the bureau, and have scheduled an autopsy for Wednesday.
The events leading up to the officer-involved shooting were rapid-fire, and remained sketchy Tuesday evening.
At about 11 a.m., the Clayton County Fire Department responded to a fire at Hidden Grove apartments, 6726 Tara Blvd.
Fire department spokesman, Capt. Laudry Merkison, said firefigthers arrived to find flames coming from a second-story window. Three engines, an aerial unit and two medic units responded to the scene, and were able to contain the fire within the apartment, and extinguish it.
A short while later, a 911 call reported a disturbance at a BP gas station down the street, at 7297 Tara Blvd., Clayton County Police Capt. Greg Dickens said. Citing the 911 call and officers' reports from the scene, Dickens said a man was "creating mayhem."
The man, reported to be Nave, allegedly stabbed the tires on two cars, smashed a windshield, smashed wine bottles inside the BP convenience store and attempted to rob a woman at knifepoint, authorities said. Leaving the BP parking lot, the man came in contact with sheriff's deputies.
In the parking lot of a nearby, abandoned Shell station, the 19-year-old waved a knife around, and then allegedly lunged at a deputy, authorities said. He was shot to death at around noon.
However, some in the community are disputing the official version of events. Gerald Rose, leader of the Atlanta-based civil rights group New Order, said witnesses described Nave as "an unarmed man."
Rose, who said he will use his friendship with Sheriff Hill to ensure justice is done, said the official account left some questions unanswered. "We hope this is not a case of shooting first, and asking questions later," he said. "Criminals are criminals, but at the same time, they're supposed to have their day in court."
Rose said he would be in contact with the family of the deceased man and the sheriff on Wednesday, and said he was confident Hill would do the right thing.
Sheriff Victor Hill could not be reached for comment by the Clayton News Daily Tuesday. However, he did speak to TV reporters at the scene, and defended the action.
"He [Nave] drew a knife on the deputies and approached them," the sheriff said, "and unfortunately, they had to defend themselves."
Veronica Nave said the 19-year-old's mother, stepfather and sisters were taken in by the Red Cross, after the fire, and were trying to see if any of their belongings could be salvaged from the apartment. David Nave, Sr. reportedly spent the afternoon trying to get information from the sheriff's office.
"We haven't heard anything," Veronica Nave said. "No one will say anything. We're just in shock right now."