FORT VALLEY -- An 8-year-old Fort Valley boy who stayed up late to watch television was killed when someone shot through an apartment door early Tuesday.
Jaimel Anderson was wearing his pajamas when the bullets flew through the door, striking him once in the left leg and once in the upper torso as he lay on an air mattress in his mother’s boyfriend’s living room just before 1:40 a.m.
No arrests had been announced as of Tuesday evening, though authorities have identified a person of interest, said Chief Lawrence Spurgeon, Fort Valley’s public safety director.
“We don’t think it was random. We think it’s a deliberate act,” Spurgeon said. “This is a heinous act that will not be tolerated.”
De’Jad Williams, who rents unit 2-E at Indian Oaks Apartments where the shooting occurred, considers himself like a father to Jaimel and his 6-year-old brother, who was asleep at the time.
“I ran in there while bullets were whistling by,” Williams said.
He saw Jaimel, who was lying down, looking up at him.
Neighbors saw two people running from the apartment at 1103 East Church St., he said.
About an hour before, Williams said he received a text message telling him to come outside and fight.
Thinking it was his cousin joking around, he didn’t pay it any mind and went to bed, he said.
He said he kept the boys Tuesday night while their mother went to work. She could not be reached for comment. A family member said she was sleeping when a Telegraph reporter stopped by a Warner Robins home. A large group of family and friends were gathered both inside and outside the house, with vehicles lined up along the side of the road.
Peach County Coroner Kerry Rooks said Jaimel was unconscious when the first officers arrived and began giving aid.
He was rushed to Medical Center of Peach County, Navicent Health, where he was pronounced dead at 2:25 a.m., Rooks said.
“It’s awful. He was shot more than once,” Rooks said. “This kid wasn’t doing anything, but for some reason someone goes to the apartment and starts shooting through the door.”
The autopsy confirmed what authorities already knew: the boy died from injuries sustained from the gunshot wounds, and the manner of death was ruled a homicide, Rooks said.
Williams believes the shooting could stem from an incident in which he asked a man who “brings trouble into the neighborhood” to leave and not come back. He had not seen the man for awhile.
The family is left with only memories of a vibrant little boy.
“He was smart. He was a good athlete. He loved to play basketball,” Williams said.
Crime scene investigators combed the apartment within the confines of yellow tape that kept the public at bay.
Technicians removed the front door and loaded it into a GBI truck. Gaping bullet holes could be seen as it was carried away for forensic testing.
“I heard some shots,” said Jontavious Davis, a 21-year-old college student who lives in the same building. “I didn’t see anything.”
He said he called 911 and waited for police to arrive.
Stacey Smith, who lives in the same building, also heard the gunshots. She first thought she was hearing fireworks. Authorities were on scene when she got outside. She watched the little boy being carried on a stretcher to an awaiting ambulance.
Spurgeon said authorities do not believe it was a domestic issue, and he had no knowledge of any nefarious activity at that apartment.
Peach County Sheriff Terry Deese said his deputies have been at the scene and will be assisting however they can. The Peach County Drug Enforcement Unit is also assisting in the investigation.
Anyone with information is urged to call Fort Valley police at 478-825-3384.
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303. To contact Becky Purser, call 256-9559.