Columbus, GA – Nine children between the ages of five and 17 were shot in front of gas station near the Georgia-Alabama state line late on Friday night.
Columbus Police Department Police Chief Freddie Blackmon said the incident occurred at about 10 p.m. on Feb. 17 when an altercation erupted at a house party and then spilled over into a nearby gas station, the Statesboro Herald reported.
Chief Blackmon said gunfire erupted in the gas station parking lot and nine people were shot, all of them juveniles.
Officials have not released the identities of the victims, but the police chief said they ranged in age from five years old to 17 years old, the Statesboro Herald reported.
He said seven boys and two girls were shot.
Chief Blackmon said several of the children had already been treated for their gunshot wounds and released home to finish recuperating, the Statesboro Herald reported.
None of the gunshot wounds were life threatening, according to the police chief.
He urged parents to “know where your children are and what they have in their possession,” the Statesboro Herald reported.
The police chief said that none of the children who were shot at the gas station had a parent present at the time of the incident.
Chief Blackmon promised a thorough investigation, the Statesboro Herald reported.
“I am committed to assuring you that we will find the person or persons responsible for this senseless crime,” he told reporters.
The police chief pleaded with the public for help, the Statesboro Herald reported.
“I encourage anyone with information to contact police. I encourage parents whose child was injured in this incident to make sure that any information they share with them is shared with police. We will work around the clock to resolve this case,” Chief Blackmon said.
He also called on parents to educate their children on peaceful resolutions to disputes in the community, the Statesboro Herald reported.
“We must work toward helping communicate to our children how to peacefully resolve conflict without resorting to gun violence,” the police chief added.
The mayor also weighed in on the recent space of violence in his city, the Statesboro Herald reported.
“I’m so grateful to God that we didn’t have anyone lose their life,” Union City Mayor B.H. “Skip” Henderson III said. “I’m tired of seeing folks having a disagreement or argument or maybe even a fistfight who then think they have to reach for a gun. That’s just got to stop. We’ve got to find a way in the community to reclaim our young people.”
Police have not yet publicly identified any suspects, nor have they made any arrests, in connection with the shootings, the Statesboro Herald reported.