THIS PAST Friday night, Windsor Forest sophomore linebacker George Akins Jr. intercepted a pass in a 37-0 victory over Islands High.
Twenty-four hours later he was dead of a gunshot wound.
He was 15.
The attacker(s) shot Akins and another Windsor Forest player — also 15 — at a McDonald’s near Savannah Mall.
Akins played offense and defense, and occasionally came in as a running back. Likely a mentor of his on that side of the ball was Windsor Forest senior running back Traivon Bass-Black, who ran for three touchdowns in the Islands High blowout.
Alerted by social media within minutes of Akins’ shooting, members of the Windsor Forest team, including the head coach, headed straight for that McDonald’s.
Bass-Black was one of them. He was quoted in the Savannah Morning News saying, “When we got there, one of the mothers came out and said he didn’t make it,” Bass-Black said. “That just took my whole mind out.”
Within 48 hours, SCMPD had arrested a suspect in the shootings.
The suspect is 16 years old. Police say he will be tried as an adult.
The usual notion in Savannah is that this type of gun violence only occurs in certain neighborhoods or always involves the drug trade.
Indeed, generally the only time gun violence becomes big news in Savannah is when it crosses those neighborhood boundaries and involves people who aren’t “usually” the victims of gun violence. (Spoiler Alert: This typically means white and/or affluent people.)
But as gun violence expands locally, we are also expanding the definition of people who are “typical” victims of it.
The roster of victims now includes high school football players hanging out getting a bite to eat.
Unfortunately, it’s a trend.
You might recall a little over a month ago during this football season, the iconic rivalry game between Savannah High and Beach High had to be rescheduled due to concerns that there were specific threats stemming from the murder a few days before of 16-year-old Jaheim Morris.
The famous Battle of the Bands between the two rivals was canceled altogether.
The murder of Morris was itself directly tied to the July 4th tragedy in City Market, in which 17-year-old Jerry Chambers allegedly shot into a crowd before leading police in a high-speed chase which would culminate in a collision causing the deaths of three people, including two passengers in the vehicle Chambers was in.
Reading between the lines, it’s clear that the bizarre July 4 event was some kind of catalyst or proxy for a larger struggle, whether between literal gangs or groups of antagonistic juveniles who fancy themselves as gangsters.
Like the Rosetta Stone, I imagine if one could map out the most problematic alliances and vendettas around town, the July 4th incident might be the one that ties most all of them together.
(While technically Akins’ death is the 30th homicide of 2017 in the Savannah-Chatham Metro jurisdiction, we have opted to include those three City Market fatalities over the July 4th holiday in our own unofficial tally, bringing our number to 33. Despite the overarching significance of the mass casualty event, SCMPD doesn’t recognize the fatalities as homicides.)
The circumstances of this past weekend’s murder of Akins have yet to completely come to light. But it certainly seems that Savannah is plagued with an epidemic of deadly juvenile crime.
The victims of this kind of violence may or may not always be wrapped up in the circumstances leading to it. But when a high school football game isn’t safe, and a McDonald’s isn’t safe, the bottom line is no one is really safe.
This epidemic of minors killing other minors comes amid the ongoing divorce proceedings in the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department itself.
In about three months, the now-merged police department is scheduled to split into two entities, one patrolling the City limits of Savannah itself, and the other patrolling the unincorporated area of Chatham County.
(There are several other municipal police departments outside the City of Savannah with their own jurisdictions.)
For such a pivotal event, the dissolution of the police merger is getting surprisingly little attention, perhaps because very few details have even been worked out other than the official termination date of February 1, 2018.
There is concern in some quarters that the “new” Chatham County Police Dept. — which actually used to exist until the merger itself in 2005 — will spur a brain drain from officers currently wearing blue in the City of Savannah.
The theory is that the prospect of a clearer lane to promotion and advancement — not to mention a possibly smaller chance of getting shot in the line of duty — will entice the best and brightest from Savannah to jump ship.
I’m not sold on that theory, for the simple reason that we’re still not sure how many officers would really be needed in the County, and if that would seriously impact the numbers in the City.
But, that’s part of the issue — we really just don’t have much information to go on.
It’s a real shame, because there are kids killing kids out there, and it’s getting worse.
For a city which often says crime is its number-one issue, there sometimes seems to be surprisingly little sense of urgency about it.