Residents of the Covington neighborhood where seven teenagers were arrested last week for the robbery and assault of a 16-year-old boy say the incident was connected to drugs the victim was bringing to the area and say several of the boys were wrongly charged.
Multiple residents, including two of the arrested juveniles' mothers, two adult residents, and several high school-aged residents, reported the 16-year-old was known in the Housing Authority neighborhood and had been frequenting the area for marijuana for two or three months.
They stated he was in the neighborhood on the night of March 24 looking to exchange pills for other drugs.
The victim admitted he had with him pain medication prescribed for a shoulder injury he received when he ran into a tree while riding a four-wheeler. He said he didn't remember the name of the medication, which he had just received hours earlier, but that it was taken out of his pocket during the robbery.
He said he visited the neighborhood around three times, starting about two months ago, but he hadn't been back since the robbery and assault.
The residents said the 16-year-old was in the neighborhood again the next night.
The 16-year-old also said police came to his house and questioned him about drugs.
"(The officer) accused me of selling drugs in the area that I was in. He said, 'Everybody that we arrested told us that you were selling drugs,'" said the 16-year-old. "That made me mad."
CPD spokesperson Dectective Daniel Seals confirmed the victim had been questioned about possession of drugs based on statements from other people.
Carla Patrick claimed her 15-year-old son and several of the other arrested teens happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and were not involved in the assault.
She said many of the neighborhood kids were playing basketball or hanging out at the basketball court that night when the assault took place about 10 -to 15-yards away.
"The boys in the neighborhood definitely know they are wrong," said resident Kendra Davis, of the boys that initiated the assault and robbery. She had reported separately that several of the arrested teens - including her 14-year-old son, who she said was visiting the area - were bystanders.
The victim, in describing the assault, said he saw about eight to 10 males, but three of them were mainly doing the kicking and punching.
Seals said the teens were arrested because they were involved in the incident. "We didn't charge the charges because they were in the area," he said.
He said all the arrested juveniles admitted to being part of a gang that called themselves the "Corporation of Killers" and that all of them had told police about how the gang operated.
Patrick said she didn't know where the name "Corporation of Killers" came from and that she had never heard of it before, but that she and her son used to joke if they had money, they'd build a community center and call it the "Corporation of Kids."
She also said during her son's interview, which she observed, the interviewing officer said her son would receive harsher charges if he didn't agree with what the police were saying.
"He had me and my son scared," said Patrick. "He said if we don't go along with what he said, my son's going to big jail," she said.
She told her son to go along. "I didn't know no better, just like other parents didn't know no better," said Patrick.
When asked about the accusations, Seals said, "We're not going to field questions about what we may or may not have said in an interview."
The seven teens were arrested within a little over 24 hours after the incident and charged under the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act, which can increase the penalties they'd face if found guilty. Seals said the Act had not been used very often in Covington. They were charged with robbery, aggravated assault and violation of the Georgia Controlled Substance Act, and three of the defendants were charged with destruction of evidence for trying to get rid of drugs in their possession.
Two of the defendants were considered adults - Laquane Stroud, 17, of Covington, and Cleveland Brady, 17, of Covington.
The rest ranged in age from 14 to 16.