Three-month-old Tahji Veal didn’t cry as he slept in his mother’s arms, but plenty of tears flowed from others as his family spoke to the media Wednesday.
Gathered outside Macon Gardens Apartments, they appealed to end violence while pleading to find out who killed the baby’s father, 19-year-old Tavaris Veal.
“I just want justice for my son,” Saleta Smothers said before crying curtailed her speech.
About 7:30 p.m. March 26, the teen was sitting outside building 20 of the apartment complex, tucked off Mercer University Drive behind Fire Station No. 8 across from Macon Mall.
An SUV pulled up with three or four men inside. Shots were fired from the vehicle, wounding 23-year-old Terry Brown and fatally wounding Veal, whom authorities initially identified as Tavarous. His mother spells his first name Tavaries, but his Facebook page omits the “e,” as did memorial T-shirts many were wearing.
“We just want to bury our son and leave it in God’s hands,” said his father, Trent Veal. “I trust in the sheriff’s department, and I want y’all to bring me justice.”
Investigator Cedric Penson said they are continually gathering leads in what may have been a dispute over a woman, but a motive has not been confirmed.
“There’s so many things and twists and turns,” Penson said, without divulging too much. “We pretty much have all the ingredients. We just have to determine what we’re serving.”
Deputies issued a lookout for the white SUV, possibly a Ford Explorer or Expedition.
“They need to get these guys off the street fast because they’re going to kill again,” said Trent Veal, who was wearing a T-shirt with his son’s picture on it.
His mother, Mamie Veal, asked for prayers as they grieve her grandson’s death.
“We don’t want any more violence. There’s been enough,” she said. “Right now we know how everybody else feels who has lost a loved one, and you don’t never know until it hits your family.”
More than two dozen people joined in the news conference, with about as many members of the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office, including Sheriff David Davis.
“There are people and families behind these crimes. And it affects the family and the community when these kinds of things happen,” Davis said. “We know there are people in this community that know what happened and know who’s responsible for this, and so we want them to come forward.”
Anonymous tips can be phoned into Macon Regional Crimestoppers at 877-68-CRIME. Information leading to an arrest could pay up to $1,000.
Veal’s aunt, Demetrice Mathews, emotionally begged for a societal change.
“Please y’all young people look what are y’all are doing to each other. See how you are tearing people’s family apart and tear your family apart,” Mathews said. “You’re not just losing someone to the grave, you’re losing someone to the chain gang, too, for the rest of their life of senseless things.”
The families are not the only ones affected, she said.
“Things like this just hurt everyone, not just the immediate family, hurt a community to make us look so bad as people,” Mathews said as tears rolled down her cheek. “Please just learn to get along. Let’s stop this violence. Let’s learn to talk if you have issues. Just do what’s right. Just do what’s right.”
Although Veal’s grandmother said the teen, also known as Lil’ Hog, had gotten into some “little petty stuff,” having a baby son was turning his life around.
His baby’s mother said family was important to him.
“He wasn’t a deadbeat. They took one of the good ones away,” Tycie Adams said. “He just took care of his family. He came home every day. He provided.”
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.