GBI: Piru Bloods Killed Secoriea Turner

When did Atlanta's leaders learn the armed street protesters may have been gang members?

I’ve got a copy of the arrest warrant for Jerrion McKinney, whom the Georgia Bureau of Investigation accuses of being a party to the shooting of eight-year-old Secoriea Turner last Fourth of July at an armed protest checkpoint.

Jared Coleman, the state prosecutor swearing out the warrant, called McKinney and his co-defendant Julian Conley leaders of the Elm Street Piru Bloods set that had taken over the street as a “Bloods criminal street gang uprising in reference to the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks by the Atlanta Police Department on June 12, 2020.”

The warrant application states that members of the 135 Piru Bloods, Elm Street Piru Bloods and other gang members were involved in the arson of the Wendy’s where police killed Brooks.

Now, I want to take this with a grain of salt. Calling someone a gang member is stigmatizing, and it is in the interest of prosecutors to paint their charges in ways that make convictions more likely. We’re getting one side of a story.

Conley and McKinney are accused of pointing weapons at a city bus driver, along with Christopher and Samantha McCord, who live in the area and were turned around at the checkpoint. “McCord stated that McKinney was ‘being disrespectful’ and pointed the shotgun at him,” the warrant reads.

McKinney has a gang record in St. Louis, where he was a member of the Knot Boyz crew, according to the warrant application. McKinney has been all over social media with gang signs and gang activity, and talked about defying the police in that context, the application reads. McKinney’s name had already been raised in involvement with the case, emerging in Conley’s pre-trial hearings.

The warrant application confirms the existence of video of the actual shooting.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said at a press conference today that she brought in the GBI on the Secoriea Turner murder investigation specifically to look at gang involvement, and that they have “done a wonderful job, a timely job.” Her office has documents to review, she said — I suspect its the social media tailings of various people at the scene. “We expect to bring down indictments in that case as early as next week, and I believe at that time we can have a more through conversation on that matter.”

I called McKinney’s girlfriend — as identified in booking documents — Tiara Kitrell for comment. She hung up on me, unsurprisingly.

Hoo boy.

People had described this as “gang shit” to me, but until now the extent of the gang involvement has been opaque. There’s no easy way for an uninvolved outside observer to distinguish between a “legitimate” protester and an armed gangster. I found out the hard way what happens when you just try to ask them.

But the allegation that the armed militants on the street were an organized criminal street gang and not the Black equivalent of some III-percenter group — and yes, there’s a distinction to be made there — raises some serious questions about what the city was doing while this was going on.

When did investigators learn that men on the street might be Piru Bloods with criminal records? When did they see social media posts showing criminal gang activity? Were they investigating the people in the street while the protest occurred, or only after the shooting of Secoriea Turner?

I ask, because the city leaders chose to be hands-off during the armed takeover of Pryor and University, fearful of a violent confrontation between police and Black protesters. If they knew the people in the street were active street gang members and still did nothing, I would demand resignations. I don’t say that lightly.

Police investigation of protesters raises serious civil rights questions. Had there been no shootings, opening a dossier on protesters — even armed protesters — reeks of civil rights era phone tapping of Martin Luther King Jr. and COINTELPRO actions.

Nonetheless, I would think this kind of information would have been passed on by police to the mayor and city council in regular briefings, if they had it at the time.

That said, the Garrett Rolfe charges demolished the relationship between the police department and the mayor’s office. It is conceivable to me that investigators may have been less than diligent in their examination of the protesters, both out of an abundance of legal caution … and the call to avoid “proactive policing” made by commanders.

The answers to these questions will shake out in two different courtrooms. On one side, we’ll have Conley and McKinney and whoever else gets arrested next week, fighting for their lives in court. On the other we’ll have the Turner family negligence lawsuit against the city of Atlanta, attempting to show how badly people dropped the ball on public safety.

Both trials will be political. Neither will leave Atlanta in a good light.