Blue lights lit up the early evening sky along Patterson Street on Saturday, May 6, as Atmore police were dispatched in response to several reports of gunfire in the area.
Police Chief Chuck Brooks said Tuesday that police responded in force to the area but found no evidence that shots had been fired or that any other criminal activity had been or was being conducted.
“We had three or four different complaints from callers who reported that shots were being fired in the area,” Brooks said. “We didn’t find anything to substantiate that. No arrests were made, and there were no injuries.”
The police chief said officers arrived to find a “large crowd” that filled the sidewalks along Patterson Street and spilled into the roadway during what he was told was an informal memorial service for Donta Demorris Russell, a 20-year-old Patterson Street resident who was shot to death inside his vehicle on April 27.
“The only thing I can tell you officially is that there was a large crowd in the Patterson Street area,” said Brooks. “I was told that they were there for some type of vigil or memorial for the young man who passed away, but I don’t know that for sure.”
Russell’s body was found inside his Crown Victoria, which had come to a rest against a tree in the yard of a residence on Old Ship Circle, just outside Atmore’s city limits. According to witnesses, the Atmore man was shot once as he drove along Martin Luther King Drive, then several more times after the car came to a stop.
Escambia County Sheriff’s Office investigators are still investigating the shooting death, but no suspect or suspects have been arrested to date.
Brooks said the main concern for city police on Saturday was that the gathered throng was blocking the street, making it virtually impossible for police, fire or emergency medical personnel to get through if they had been needed in the area.
“The streets were blocked, and nobody was allowed to pass through there,” he said. “If there had been a fire or medical emergency, the firetruck or ambulance couldn’t have gotten through. Our officers cleared the people out of the street, then went back on patrol.”