NATIONAL NEWS

4 slain in Georgia mass shooting memorialized as neighbors gather for candlelight vigil

Jul 17, 2023, 10:27 AM | Updated: 6:56 pm

HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) — A few hundred people gathered Monday for a vigil to remember four victims of a mass shooting in an Atlanta suburb, singing “This Little Light of Mine” at the end as they lit candles in their honor.

Family members, friends and neighbors were still shaking off disbelief at the 10-minute span Saturday when Scott Leavitt, 67; his wife, Shirley Leavitt, 66; Steve Blizzard, 65; and Ronald Jeffers, 66, were shot and killed. Police and witnesses named 40-year-old Andre Longmore as the shooter.

“My parents loved each other,” Scott Leavitt Jr. said after the vigil, a tear running down his cheek. “They always said neither one of them would be able to live without the other, so we’ve been able to find some comfort that they went together.”

Harold Blizzard said his older brother, Steve, was a lover of photography and adventure. The two had planned a trip along Route 66 in early July, but when Harold had to cancel to allow an amputated finger to heal, Steve told him they’d do it another time.

“It’s the biggest regret of my life,” Harold Blizzard said after the vigil.

The killings set off a massive search that ended Sunday with Longmore dead in a shootout in another suburb about 15 miles (25 kilometers) north. The exchange of gunfire wounded a sheriff’s deputy and two police officers, who are all recovering.

Residents of the bucolic Dogwood Lakes subdivision, where about 40 houses with tidy yards flank a lake on two streets, were surprised that gun violence had come to their peaceful neighborhood about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Atlanta. Hampton had not previously recorded a homicide since 2018.

“I’m not going to say it makes me uneasy, but it does drive home that this kind of thing could happen anywhere,” said Kevin Pugh, who lives next door to the house where the Leavitts lived for a few years with their adult daughter and her children. “Up until Saturday, the most ruckus we had was the Canadian geese.”

Erin Leavitt, in a Facebook post, remembered her aunt and uncle, Scott and Shirley, as “fun loving and caring souls, my aunt possibly one of the sweetest and kindest souls a person could meet.”

They both grew up in Massachusetts and moved years ago to Georgia, where they shared their home with their daughter Jessica and granddaughters, Erin Leavitt wrote. The couple also has two other surviving children, she wrote.

“Jessica and her young girls were also home at the time of the attack, however, my aunt was able to alert her and she and the girls survived,” she said. “Sadly, my aunt did not.”

Jeffers was described as a pillar of his church. Sherry Wyatt, who works at Hampton’s recreation center near Jeffers’ home, said Sunday that Jeffers would regularly sing at the senior center that shares the building.

A few months ago she told Jeffers how beautiful his voice was.

“I’m just so glad I told him he sang like an angel,” Wyatt said. “I know he is in heaven now singing.”

Tom Hannegan and his husband, Donald Smith, live two doors down from the house where Blizzard had lived since the subdivision was built in the 1990s. The only crime they ever remember hearing about was a rash of car break-ins about five years ago.

Hannegan, now president of the homeowners association, said Blizzard was one of the few remaining original residents. He was vice president of the association and previously served as president.

“He was just a good guy,” Hannegan said.

Blizzard was a military veteran and skilled locksmith, former coworker Randy Slape told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He lamented that Blizzard’s life was cut short.

“I can just imagine that he was planning on doing something with his grandkids and being a grandpa,” Slape said.

Hampton Mayor Ann Tarpley ordered flags flown at half-staff in the city of 8,000 on Monday. Officials including the city manager and police chief assured the families during the evening vigil that their community would support them over the long haul.

The shootings brought to 31 the number of mass killings so far this year, with at least 153 people dying in them, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today in a partnership with Northeastern University.

Longmore had needed mental help for nearly a decade, but his family and officials couldn’t force him to get treatment, his mother said. Longmore had a “mental breakdown” in 2014, leading to an inpatient hospital stay, Lorna Dennis told WSB-TV on Sunday.

She said her son “kept deteriorating” but refused to seek medical attention, and that officials said they couldn’t force him to seek care.

“It’s hard to lose your son, and it’s also hard to know your son cost the life of so many people,” Dennis said.

She said Longmore was living with her in recent years and she hopes relatives of the victims will find peace with God.

“I feel so much for the families, and that’s why I just want to say I’m very, very sorry. I know words cannot really comfort them from me at this time, but I know there is a comforter, and they can refer to him at any time,” Dennis said.

The Army said Longmore was a sergeant, working as an automated logistical specialist from August 2000 to May 2006 overseeing supplies and equipment. He deployed to Afghanistan, served under hostile fire and was a trained parachutist, driver and mechanic.

Hannegan said Longmore attended a couple of neighborhood association meetings with his mother, but he didn’t really know him. Longmore sometimes rode an electric scooter around the neighborhood or drove slowly up and down the dead-end streets.

“You could just tell he was a little out there,” Hannegan said. “He would tell people he was a prophet.”

Longmore was killed in suburban Jonesboro after a Henry County sheriff’s deputy saw the SUV that Longmore stole from Blizzard and began chasing.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Monday that Longmore first tried to ambush officers in Jonesboro and shot a Henry County deputy. Longmore stole a police vehicle and drove across the street, investigators said. He then fled to the backyard of a townhouse, bleeding and naked, and ran inside. When officers entered the home, Longmore fired again, wounding two Clayton County police officers.

The sheriff’s deputy was shot in the back and underwent surgery. Both Clayton officers were released after treatment for minor injuries.

___

Amy reported from Atlanta.

National News

Associated Press

Acclaimed video artist Bill Viola dies at 73, created landmark `Tristan und Isolde’ production

LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Bill Viola, a video artist who combined with director Peter Sellars on a groundbreaking production of Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” originally seen in Los Angeles, Paris and New York, has died at age 73. Viola died Friday at his home in Long Beach of Alzheimer’s disease, his website announced. What […]

12 minutes ago

President Joe Biden arrives on Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Saturday, July 13, 202...

Associated Press

Biden tries to balance his condemnation of the attack on Trump with the ongoing 2024 campaign

WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeland security and law enforcement officials were briefing President Joe Biden on Sunday about the apparent assassination attempt on his predecessor, Donald Trump, as the White House continued to call for national unity and condemn the stunning act of violence. Vice President Kamala Harris was joining Biden for an update from top […]

5 hours ago

FILE - President Ronald Reagan waves and then looks up before being shoved into the President's lim...

Associated Press

Reagan survived an assassination attempt and his response changed the trajectory of his presidency

WASHINGTON (AP) — The would-be assassin got off six shots in 1.7 seconds, nearly taking the life of a president and changing the trajectory of a presidency. It happened on a dreary March afternoon in 1981. President Ronald Reagan was leaving the Washington Hilton hotel after giving a speech to a union group when John […]

6 hours ago

A 150 million year old dinosaur skeleton is displayed at the Natural History Museum's new welcome c...

Associated Press

Gnatalie is the only green-boned dinosaur found on the planet. She will be on display in LA

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The latest dinosaur being mounted at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles is not only a member of a new species — it’s also the only one found on the planet whose bones are green, according to museum officials. Named “Gnatalie” (pronounced Natalie) for the gnats that swarmed during the […]

7 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is helped off the stage by U.S. Sec...

Associated Press

What we know about the 20-year-old suspect in the apparent assassination attempt of Donald Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — The man identified as the shooter in the apparent assassination attempt of former President Donald Trump was a 20-year-old from a Pittsburg suburb not far from the campaign rally where one attendee was killed. Authorities say Thomas Matthew Crooks of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, opened fire at the rally before being killed by […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Trump is injured but ‘fine’ after apparent assassination attempt leaves rally-goer and gunman dead

BUTLER, Pa. (AP) — On the heels of an apparent attempt to kill him, former President Donald Trump called Sunday for unity and resilience as shocked leaders across the political divide recoiled from the shooting that left him injured but “fine” and the gunman and a rally-goer dead. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee said the […]

8 hours ago

4 slain in Georgia mass shooting memorialized as neighbors gather for candlelight vigil