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Jogging dad shot twice in Atlanta neighbourhood that is looking to break away from city and form own police force

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Big cities such as Atlanta have spawned ‘white flight’ suburban refuges like Buckhead

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Andrew Worrell, a 41-year-old father of three, was shot twice while out jogging in Buckhead, a wealthy neighbourhood in northern Atlanta.

Police said the suspect, 22-year-old Gaelen Newsom, may have been experiencing a mental health crisis. Following the Saturday morning shooting, he was arrested after allegedly committing several other violent crimes.

He has been charged with attempted murder, three counts of aggravated assault and two counts of possession of a firearm.

Police said Mr Newsom opened fire on two others and hit one of his neighbours with his car.

Buckhead has been moving towards forming its own city and police force, hoping to leave the governance by the city of Atlanta behind as crime has been spiking.

“We filed for divorce and our divorce is final,” chairman and CEO of the Buckhead City Committee Bill White told CNN. “We’re forming our own city, we’re establishing our own police force and we will eradicate crime.”

The wife of Mr Worrell, Anne Worrell, wrote in a Saturday afternoon Facebook post that her husband had been approached by a car while he was out running.

“He thought they may be asking for directions so he stopped,” She said. “The very tinted window rolled down and the guy pointed a gun at him and shot him, hit him in the upper thigh.”

“Andrew turned to run and the guy shot him again, this one entering his left hip, hitting his ball and socket before travelling horizontally through this lower abdomen and lodging itself in his right hip area,” she added.

“The guy shot again but missed him as Andrew dove behind a tree. The guy fled. Andrew called 911 and flagged down a couple [of] wonderful people who called me and took off their shirt and tried to stop the bleeding. They stayed with him until police, fire and paramedics arrived,” she wrote.

Mr Worrell had surgery and was still in hospital on Sunday night. In another Facebook post, his wife said he could possibly leave the hospital on Monday.

Two other joggers were also targets of gunfire on Saturday, but they managed to avoid being hit, according to Deputy Atlanta Police Chief Charles Hampton Jr. The shots came from a silver sedan, witnesses said.

Police later found a Kia Forte matching the witnesses’ description when the vehicle slammed into a man taking out the garbage at an apartment complex, pinning him between the car and a parked pickup truck. Police said the man was in his 20s and was gravely injured. He was also taken to hospital for surgery.

Mr Newsom was identified as the driver of the car. “We have information that he may have been suffering from some type of mental health crisis,” Chief Hampton said.

The Buckhead Exploratory Committee was created to investigate the opportunity to break away from Atlanta after a steep rise in violent crime in the neighbourhood and the rest of the city of Atlanta.

“The crime has gotten to a point where it is just unmanageable and it seems like there is no end in sight,” Mr White told CNN.

The Atlanta PD lost over 200 officers during the course of 2020. Spokesman Steve Avery told 11Alive in December: “We have been operating at less than full staffing for a while.”

Mr Avery said the turnover is “not out of line with what we are seeing with numerous departments across the nation today, due to the current climate surrounding policing in United States”.

“The reasons for the attrition are varied, we have some officers opting for retirement, some deciding to pursue other careers outside of policing entirely, as well as officers taking advantage of opportunities with other departments outside of Atlanta,” he added.

Members of the Buckhead Exploratory Committee told the Wall Street Journal in March: “Our residents are genuinely concerned for their safety and the safety of their family members.”

“We’re too far gone for the city of Atlanta to help us at this point,” a Buckhead resident told CNN.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has said that the city is facing a “Covid crime wave”. Homicides have risen around 63 per cent compared to this time last year, and 43 per cent if compared to the same time period in 2019, data from the Atlanta PD shows.

There have been more than 300 shootings since the start of the year, a rise of 45 per cent compared to last year, and 55 per cent if compared to 2019.

Some Buckhead residents say they pay too much in taxes, without getting what they’re paying for.

Complaints concern local schools, damaged infrastructure, and slow public services such as garbage pick up. State lawmakers have introduced legislation that could put the idea of a Buckhead breakaway on the ballot in November 2022.

The committee has said that they have raised $600,000 to fund lobbying efforts and a study of the proposal.

Critics of the proposed divorce say the split could be disastrous for Atlanta. The Georgia capital would lose a lot of tax revenue and a split could also increase racial animosity. Buckhead is largely white, 73.5 per cent, while Atlanta as a whole is 50.7 per cent black and 38 per cent white.

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