APD ‘aggressively working’ fatal party shooting
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Although Atmore police have yet to announce the arrest of any suspect or suspects in the May 18 party shooting that left an Atmore teen dead and eight other people injured, Police Chief Chuck Brooks said the fatal shooting has not been relegated to the “cold case” file.
“We are continuing to work the case as aggressively as we can,” Brooks told Atmore News this week. “We haven’t put it on a back burner by any means. It’s such a large-scale investigation that it’s just taking some time.”
Estimates are that between 500 and 600 people — including adults in their 20s and teens as young as 14 — attended the party, which was held at Atmore Family Life Center, a privately leased community center located inside the former county middle school on Martin Luther King Drive.
The gathering started as a birthday party for a local high school senior, but flyers distributed in several communities, as well as “open invitation” postings on numerous social media sites, drew the large crowd, each of whom paid $10 to attend.
Most of the party action took place inside the former school’s cafeteria, where all but one of the doors and windows were reportedly locked and chained shut. Police reports indicate that things went well until around 2 a.m., when two females got into an altercation and several males tried to intervene.
That’s when the first shots rang out, sparking a hail of gunfire from several individuals. An Atmore man, 19-year-old Crishawn Westry, reportedly died instantly when he was hit by flying lead inside the cafeteria.
Eight others, some inside the building and some outside, were hit by bullets as the gunfire continued after police arrived. Seven victims were treated at Atmore Community Hospital for relatively minor wounds and released; one had to be airlifted to a Pensacola medical facility.
A video of the party helped police identify several witnesses, including those from several surrounding communities and at least three different states. That’s one factor that has slowed the pace of the police probe.
“We have a team of investigators working on it,” said Brooks, who noted that three search warrants have already been executed in an effort to locate some of the guns used in the deadly shooting spree. “We have lots of evidence and multiple witnesses. We’ve been following up on leads and interviewing witnesses.”
Backlogs at state crime labs have also played a big role in the ongoing investigation.
“We’re still waiting to get results back from the labs,” the police chief said. “We’ve obtained subpoenas for cell phone records, and we’re also waiting on those.”
He said APD investigators are also proceeding carefully, making sure that they have an airtight case before any suspects are taken into custody.
“We want to build as strong a case as we can before we arrest anybody,” he said, urging anyone with information that might help investigators get to the bottom of things to call APD at 251-368-9141.