By Daniel Silliman
Tammy Mills hasn't told her 5-year-old son. She doesn't know how.
How do you tell a child that his big brother, his "Booman," has been murdered?
"I was so unprepared for this," Tammy Mills said. "It's killing me on the inside."
She spoke softly, holding an unlit candle and standing in the parking lot of Willamsburg South Apartments, in front of building M, where her 17-year-old son was shot to death at 2 p.m., Sunday.
Edward Bernard Mills, known as "Booman," was found face down in the breezeway, after three of four shots were fired by an unknown assailant, for unknown reasons.
"I just want [the person who shot Edward Mills], whoever he is, where ever he is, to turn himself in," Tammy Mills said. "I have forgiven him. I really have found it in my heart to forgive him. But I just want closure."
Her face was passive, stilled in grief, and her boyfriend hovered a few feet away, watchful while she spoke to the media at the candlelight vigil for her eldest son, Wednesday night at the apartments on Flint River Road.
She spoke to her son last on Saturday, when he called to talk about his cell phone bill. He was living with his great aunt and his girlfriend, but they spoke every few days.
The conversation was short, she remembered, because she was at work. They said they would talk later and Tammy Mills said what she said at the end of every conversation: "I love you. Stay out of the streets, and be careful."
The next call she got was from a nurse at Southern Regional Medical Center, looking through Edward Mills' cell phone. The nurse called the number listed under "My Mama." The nurse said, "You should come down here now."
As night came down on the parking lot, Wednesday night, 5-year-old Abantunji walked up to his mother, Tammy Mills. "I was a good boy in school today," he said.
"Yeah?" she said.
"Yeah. I had on my happy face," he said. "Everyone was good except for the bad boy."
"I'm glad you had your happy face," she said.
Three ministers from The Movement of God, a church in Atlanta, climbed the steps of building M. Around them and below them, more than 60 people lit small, white candles. Brother Mike Pope began to sing, "Oh Dear Lord, I need thee. Oh Dear Lord, I need thee."
Pastor Gloria Still said, "Oh yes, Lord. Hallelujah, Jesus. Hallelujah. Oh yes, Jesus."
The song drifted into a prayer, and Still told the gathered mourners that Edward "Booman" Mills was their brother, their friend. "In this God," Still prayed, "we know that there's deliverance. In this God, we know that there's someone you're trying to set free. In this God, we know that you are trying to break the shackles."
The prayers drifted to tongues, as Prophetess Mary Melco prayed in what Pentecostals believe is a God-given language.
Across the parking lot, two Clayton County Police detectives stood, badges hanging around their necks, making themselves available to anyone who wanted to talk.
Detective Tom Martin said police have been given a lot of names, since Sunday, and are following a lot of leads. Police released a sketch of someone seen leaving the scene of the shooting, Tuesday, and expect to be able to make an arrest soon.
Martin wouldn't speculate on the cause of the killing, but said the Flint River Road area has been identified as one of the worst areas in the county, and Police Chief Jeff Turner has been working to clean it up.
The Flint River Road area has been bad for a few years, the chief said, and has seen a large amount of drug dealing, gangs and gang violence, as well as armed robberies, burglaries and car thefts.
Ruby Johnson said that if her 17-year-old great-nephew (Edward Mills) was in any trouble, she didn't know about it. He was applying to jobs. A month ago, she gave him a General Equivalency Diploma test book. "His dream and his goal was to be a veterinarian," Johnson said.
Johnson is caring for Edward Mills' dog, a mixed breed named Sasha. She and the dog, she said, are both acting like they're waiting, like Edward Mills will come home.
"It's still like a dream and I'm expecting to wake up out of it every minute and have him pop through the door and say, 'Hey Auntie, what you cooking?'" she said.
The whole family, said Gail Smith, Edward Mills' great-great-aunt, is just trying to get through it. Smith carried a terra-cotta pot, at the vigil, accepting donations for the 17-year-old's funeral.
It's going to cost the family $8,000, Smith said, and they're about $3,000 short. The family has set up an account with the Bank of America, in Edward Mill's name.
On the steps, illuminated by a street light and by the raised candles, Still encouraged the giving. "This mother's got to live after she puts her son in the ground," Still said. "Now, 'Booman' don't need you while he's dead. He needed y'all while he was living, but now he's dead. But his mama needs you."
Donations for Edward Mills' funeral can be made at any Bank of America location.
Those interested in helping the family in other ways can contact Gail Smith at (404) 259-9195.
Anyone who knows about the shooting, on Sunday, is asked to call Detective Tom Martin at (770) 477-3635.