What will justice look like in ‘Death Valley’ block party shootings? DA speaks out

The authorities have in recent days painted a harrowing picture of chaotic moments during and after an eruption of gunfire at a Bellevue neighborhood block party on Macon’s west side late Saturday.

Investigators have estimated that 200 shots were fired in intermittent bursts that lasted for about 30 minutes across a span of several blocks as partiers ran for cover.

The sheer volume of shots — in the dark as it were — and the so-far-untold number of firearms involved could be a nightmare for prosecutors to sort.

Bibb District Attorney David Cooke told The Telegraph Wednesday that his office will do “everything we can to get justice for the community.”

Seven people, two of whom died, were wounded across a five-or-so-block stretch near the intersection of Log Cabin Drive and Napier Avenue.

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An image of the flyer circulating on social media announcing Saturday night’s block party in Macon’s Bellevue neighbhood. Bibb County Sheriff's Office

An estimated 500 revelers had gathered earlier in the evening at a block party that was promoted by word of mouth and on social media and dubbed “Death Valley.”

It was not clear what the name referred to but authorities do not believe the get-together was convened to stir trouble. Even so, as Bibb County Sheriff David Davis has said, a “Saturday of mayhem” ensued.

The shootings at the block party

About 9:30 on Saturday night, a few hours into the party, investigators have said that a black Dodge Charger wheeled into the throng of people on Suzanne Drive. The driver spun his wheels.

The apparent intrusion prompted someone to confront the driver and gunfire quickly erupted. Authorities said more than six dozen gunshots rang out in 20 seconds.

Over the course of the next 30 minutes, more gunshots followed as the crowd scattered in all directions: north toward Mumford Road, south toward Log Cabin and east toward Napier and Hillcrest avenues.

About 15 minutes after the initial shots on Suzanne, a wood-lined, narrow lane that juts south off Robinson Road, Gerald Pennyman Jr. was reported shot at Case Street and Mumford. That spot lies about a quarter-mile north of the party site.

Gerald Pennyman Jr.

Pennyman, 25, died Monday at a Macon hospital.

Later, half an hour after the first shots broke up the party, Deroderick Tawayne “Dee” Ridley, 22, of Macon, was shot and killed at the intersection of Log Cabin and Hillcrest Drive, which runs off Hillcrest Avenue.

As of Wednesday evening, no arrests had been made.

But making arrests will be one thing, persuading reluctant eyewitnesses to come forward and proving who was responsible for the bloodshed over a half-mile-plus swath will require painstaking police work.

‘Laser focus’ on case

“We’ve made heavy lifts before,” Cooke said Wednesday, “and we don’t intend to stop.”

He said something that those responsible in the shootings should keep in mind is that time is on law enforcement’s side.

“There is no statute of limitations on murder. And we may not get those responsible for a given crime the night it happens, but we usually get the folks who are responsible and bring them to justice,” he said.

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Deroderick Tawayne “Dee” Ridley Contributed photo

Cooke added: “We do everything we can to bring laser focus to our justice and hold violent offenders accountable. And we’re going to continue to do that.”

Though he declined to go into specifics about the shootings, the DA said, “We’re gonna continue to do everything we can to get justice for the community.”

Telegraph reporter Becky Purser contributed.