ATLANTA (News Nation) — Prosecutors have charged a suspect with felony murder and aggravated assault in a shooting that killed an 8-year-old Atlanta girl near the site of an earlier police-involved shooting, officials said Wednesday.
Police issued warrants on Tuesday for 19-year-old Julian Conley in the death of Secoriea Turner, police spokesman Anthony Grant said. Conley turned himself in Wednesday, his attorney, Jackie Patterson, said.
Patterson said Conley was peacefully protesting and witnessed the shooting but did not fire a gun himself, though he was armed.
“It is no doubt this comes as a shock,” he said. “Why would you want to charge a man who saw a crime but did not participate in a criminal act? Police would have a better chance at winning the lottery than getting a conviction on my client.”
News of the charges broke as mourners attended Secoriea’s funeral Wednesday at New Calvary Missionary Baptist Church. A long line of relatives and friends filed past her body as the song “I’ll Fly Away” filled the church.
“If there’s ever a time that we need the Lord, we need him now,” The Rev. Gregory Sutton told mourners.
Secoriea was shot and killed on the Fourth of July while riding in an SUV with her mother and another adult near the Wendy’s restaurant where Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, was killed by a white police officer on June 12.
Makeshift barricades were set up in the area after Brooks was killed, and armed men had been blocking roads in the area and turning some drivers away. The SUV Secoriea was riding in was trying to make a U-turn at one of the barricades when at least one person shot into the vehicle, police said.
Conley said the SUV drove through a barricade and hit a man armed with a rifle, which prompted the shooting, Patterson said. Conley also told Patterson people on the scene thought somebody in the SUV was shooting toward the crowd, so other people started firing their guns at the vehicle.
“He was in disbelief that people were shooting at the vehicle,” the attorney said.
Secoriea’s parents have pleaded for the public to help find whoever was responsible for the killing. A $50,000 reward was offered for the apprehension and conviction of those responsible.
At her funeral, mourners described Secoriea as bringing joy to everyone around her. When she began first grade, she walked into class with a unicorn backpack and “she was cute and bright with a smile to adore,” her teacher recalled.
“She sprinkled her magic all over the class, bringing laughter and joy to all of our faces,” she said. “Really, she made my heart smile and her life can teach us all a valuable lesson. So the lesson from Secoriea today is to be a unicorn — find your magic, use your power, speak your truth, spread your wings and share your shine.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.