Authorities in Georgia said two teenagers lost their lives and seven others sustained injuries following a “mass shooting” at a Sweet 16 party earlier this month, PEOPLE reported. During a press conference on Wednesday, Douglas County Sheriff Tim Pounds said the shooting incident was “a gang hit,” but explained victims“hurt and killed were not the intended targets.”
Police said the March 4 shooting occurred as the partygoers were leaving the venue. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office also shared that the party was held at a house with over 100 guests in attendance.
The gunfire is said to have erupted after 10 pm. The deceased victims were identified as 15-year-old Samuel Moon and AJ’anaye (AJ) Hill, 14. The injured victims were aged between 14 and 19, the DCSO said. Sheriff Pounds also mentioned that three suspects have since been arrested over the “mass shooting/homicide.”
Two of the suspects, Chase Terrence McDowell and Chance Terrell McDowell, are 17-year-old twins. A third suspect was identified as Timothy Lamar Coleman Jr., 18, while a fourth suspect, 17-year-old, Kingston Cottman, was later arrested in connection with the shooting. The accused teens each face two counts of mass murder, nine counts of aggravated assault, seven counts of aggravated battery, and other pending charges.
“They were innocent bystanders,” the sheriff said about the deceased and injured victims, but did not disclose the gangs involved in the shooting, explaining that he did not intend to give them any “air time” or “dress them up”, per PEOPLE.
Pounds also said there are outstanding arrests to be made. Asked why the suspects were filmed while being taken into custody, he explained it was “simply because I told my community and the public that I was going to catch these guys who committed this terrible crime in my county.”
“I worked along with my investigators doing exactly that. I was there during the take-down part,” he added.
Hill’s mother, Chanell White, has since set up a GoFundMe to help raise funds to cover her funeral and other expenses. In the fundraiser, the deceased teen’s mother said her daughter’s “life was tragically taken away by a senseless act [sic]of gun violence.” She said Hill was at a friend’s Sweet 16 party when an “uninvited guest became belligerent” and started fighting. White revealed her deceased daughter “was struck in the back of the head as she was running away.”
She added: “Ajanaye was a beautiful vibrant 14-year-old African American female. She was a freshman at Douglas Co. High School. She loved to dance, sing, create Tik Toks, and love on her friends & family. She had aspirations of becoming an Attorney.”
Moon’s family also explained the deceased 15-year-old was “a bystander, fleeing from stray bullets, which struck him in the back.” “Samuel is loved by his family and had many friends,” his family added in a GoFundMe. “He was goofy, loving, kind, just fun to be around. He was a Sophomore at Lithia Springs High School.”