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Sunday June 20th, 2021 5:47PM

Atlanta's homicide count rises to highest in decades

By The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — The Christmas weekend shooting death of a 16-year-old girl at an Atlanta hotel caused the city's homicide count to rise to the highest it’s been in more than two decades.

The teenager's death Saturday marked the city's 154th slaying of 2020, police spokesman Anthony Grant told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Her death was one of three that detectives investigated in less than 24 hours as police and city leaders try to combat a surge in violent crime.

The last time the city’s homicide count was this high was in 1998, when the department investigated 154 deaths, records show. With several days left before the new year, however, 2020's homicide count could surpass that. The Atlanta Police Department investigated 99 homicides in 2019.

“I am deeply concerned about the spike that we are seeing in our homicides,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms recently told the newspaper, “not just our homicides, but also with our aggravated assaults.”

The deadly holiday period began Christmas morning when officers discovered a man’s body at a southeast Atlanta park. He was found about 5 a.m. with multiple stab wounds, investigators said.

About six hours later, police were called to a home in southwest Atlanta, where officers found an unconscious man with a gunshot wound. He was taken to a hospital, but later died of his injuries, authorities said.

Investigators haven’t released the identity of any of the victims.

The latest slaying occurred about 12:30 a.m. Saturday. Officers found the injured girl, who was not conscious or breathing. She was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

“Preliminary investigation suggests that the victim was inside of a room at the Hyatt Regency with a juvenile male companion," Grant said. ”A verbal dispute occurred between both parties which resulted in the juvenile male fatally shooting the victim.”

The male suspect, also 16, was arrested on charges of felony murder, aggravated assault, reckless conduct and possession of a pistol by persons under the age of 18, police said. He is being held at the Metro Regional Youth Detention Center. It was unknown if he has an attorney who could comment.

All three slayings remain under investigation.

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