KATE BRUMBACK and JEFF AMY (Associated Press)
HAMPTON, Ga. (TodayNews) — Several hundred people gathered on a picket Monday to honor the four victims of a mass shooting in suburban Atlanta by singing “This Little Light of Mine” at the end, lighting candles in their honor.
Family members, friends and neighbors were still shaking off their disbelief at Saturday’s 10-minute gap when Scott Leavitt, 67; his wife Shirley Leavitt, 66; Steve Blizzard, 65; and Ronald Jeffers, 66, were shot dead. Police and witnesses named 40-year-old Andre Longmore as the shooter.
“My parents loved each other,” Scott Leavitt Jr. said after the vigil with a tear running down his cheek. “They always said that neither of them could live without the other, so we were able to find some comfort in the fact that they went together.”
Harold Blizzard said that his older brother Steve was a photography and adventure enthusiast. The two of them planned a trip down Route 66 in early July, but when Harold had to cancel the trip to allow his amputated finger to heal, Steve told him they would do it another time.
“This is the biggest regret of my life,” Harold Blizzard said after the vigil.
The killings sparked a massive search that ended Sunday with Longmore dying in a gun battle in another suburb about 15 miles (25 km) to the north. A deputy sheriff and two police officers are injured in the shootout, all of whom recover.
Residents of the bucolic Dogwood Lakes neighborhood, where about 40 houses with neat yards adjoin the lake on two streets, were surprised that gun violence reached their peaceful neighborhood about 25 miles (40 km) south of Atlanta. Hampton has not previously recorded murders since 2018.
“I don’t want to say that it bothers me, but I understand that this can happen anywhere,” said Kevin Pugh, who lives next door to the house where the Leavitts lived with their adult daughter and her children for several years. “Before Saturday, the most noise we had was because of Canada geese.”
Erin Leavitt, in a Facebook post, remembered her aunt and uncle, Scott and Shirley, as “fun and caring souls, my aunt is possibly one of the sweetest and kindest souls a person can meet.”
They both grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Georgia many years ago, where they lived with their daughter Jessica and granddaughters, writes Erin Leavitt. The couple also have two other surviving children, she wrote.
“Jessica and her little girls were also at home at the time of the attack, however my aunt was able to warn her and she and the girls survived,” she said. “Unfortunately, my aunt didn’t.
Jeffers has been described as a pillar of his church. Sherry Wyatt, who works at the Hampton Recreation Center next to Jeffers’ home, said Sunday that Jeffers will sing regularly at the senior center in the same building.
A few months ago, she told Jeffers what a beautiful voice he had.
“I’m so glad I told him he sang like an angel,” Wyatt said. “I know he’s singing in heaven right now.”
Tom Hannegan and his husband Donald Smith live two houses from the house that Blizzard has lived in since the unit was built in the 1990s. The only crime they’ve ever heard of was a series of car break-ins about five years ago.
Hannegan, now president of the homeowners’ association, said Blizzard was one of the few indigenous people left. He was vice president of the association and previously served as president.
“He was just a good guy,” Hannegan said.
Blizzard was a military veteran and skilled locksmith, former colleague Randy Slape told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He lamented that Blizzard’s life was cut short.
“I can only imagine that he planned to do something with his grandchildren and become a grandfather,” Slape said.
Hampton Mayor Anne Tarpley ordered flags at half-mast in the city of 8,000 on Monday. Officials, including the city manager and police chief, assured families during an evening vigil that their community would support them for a long time to come.
According to a database maintained by the Associated Press and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University, the shootings have resulted in 31 massacres this year, resulting in at least 153 deaths.
According to his mother, Longmore needed psychological help for nearly a decade, but his family and officials were unable to force him into treatment. In 2014, Longmore had a “mental breakdown” that led to hospitalization, Lorna Dennis told WSB-TV on Sunday.
She said her son’s condition “continued to deteriorate” but he refused to seek medical attention and that officials said they could not force him to seek medical attention.
“It’s hard to lose a son, and it’s also hard to realize that your son cost so many lives,” Dennis said.
She said that Longmore lived with her in recent years, and she hopes that the relatives of the victims will find peace with God.
“I have so much sympathy for the families and so I just want to say that I am very, very sorry. I know words can’t really comfort them from me at this time, but I know there is a comforter and they can refer to it at any time,” Dennis said.
The Army stated that Longmore was a sergeant and worked as an automated logistics specialist from August 2000 to May 2006, supervising supplies and equipment. He was sent to Afghanistan, served under enemy fire and was a trained paratrooper, driver and mechanic.
Hannegan said that Longmore attended a couple of local association meetings with his mother, but he didn’t really know him. Longmore occasionally rode around the neighborhood on an electric scooter or drove slowly up and down dead-end streets.
“You could just say he was there for a bit,” Hannegan said. “He told people he was a prophet.”
Longmore was killed in the suburb of Jonesboro after Deputy Henry County Sheriff saw an SUV that Longmore had stolen from Blizzard and began a pursuit.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Monday that Longmore first attempted to ambush officers in Jonesboro and shot and killed County Assemblyman Henry. According to investigators, Longmore stole a police car and crossed the street. He then fled to the backyard of the townhouse, bleeding and naked, and ran inside. As the officers entered the house, Longmore fired again, injuring two Clayton County police officers.
The deputy sheriff was shot in the back and had to undergo surgery. Both Clayton officers were released after receiving treatment for minor injuries.
Amy reported from Atlanta.