The uncle of a 4-year-old boy who was killed by a stray bullet on New Year’s Eve is still seeking closure and accountability for the child’s death.
Marquel Peters was killed when a stray bullet struck him in the head while sitting next to his mother at a Watch Night church service. Gary Peters, Markel’s uncle, has met and spoken with DeKalb County officials since the shooting to discuss issues with the way the incident was handled.
An internal investigation was conducted by the county. As of last week, no action had been taken against any county public safety employees regarding the incident, police spokeswoman Mekka Parish said.
“What his [DeKalb County Director of Public Safety William Miller’s] guys are telling him is the furthest thing from the truth,” Gary Peters said. “It makes me feel mad. They’re only saying what their boss wants to hear. It’s terrible.”
Miller said he is planning to continue to evaluate the county’s response.
“We reviewed their concerns and relayed our findings, but the family had more concerns so we are continuing to review our response to the incident that morning,” Miller stated in an e-mail to The Champion. “We are still optimistic about reaching the public and educating them on the dangers of celebratory gunfire and the family expressed their desire that we continue in that effort on behalf of Marquel.”
DeKalb Police said that a bullet fired from a gun by someone celebrating the new year pierced a hole in the roof of The Church of God of Prophecy in Decatur and struck Marquel in the head. He died a short time later at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, before doctors could stabilize him enough to surgically remove the bullet.
Family members were concerned that paramedics and police thought debris from the ceiling caused the bleeding and that it was a flesh wound. They also expressed concern that Marquel was in the ambulance 10 to 15 minutes before he was taken to Egleston.
Miller and other county officials met with the family in a positive meeting shortly after Markel’s death, according to the uncle.
After the shooting, Miller had told the Peters family that he would try to push for stronger consequences for shootings that result from celebratory gunfire. Last week Miller issued a statement calling for an end to celebratory gunfire.
“Though we will never know what promise Marquel had in life, and how far this young child could have soared, he left what could be a lasting legacy for all of us,” Miller’s statement continued. “If we can change the reckless and senseless behavior of a few by changing the culture in the South of using guns to celebrate, then we can ensure for the rest of us that a tragedy such as this will never occur again.”
“We are not going to let that boy die in vain,” Miller said after the January meeting. “I would implore all the citizens of DeKalb County to find a way other than firing guns to celebrate holidays like New Year and the Fourth of July.”
DeKalb County was under contract with the Care Ambulance Services (CAS)when the incident happened and a unit was on the scene at the church after the shooting. DeKalb also dispatched an ambulance that took Marquel to the hospital. CAS vice president Doug Tisdale would not confirm reports that two employees had been fired because of their actions in the Peters shooting.
“I can’t say anything regarding employment with Care Ambulance,” Tisdale said. “Our job with (DeKalb County) is to provide backup service to 911 calls. We had had no complaints against us and we didn’t transport (Markel) to the hospital.”
Tisdale said the family was scheduled to meet with representatives of his company but have not done so.