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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Atlanta shooting victim Secoriea Turner was full of joy, feisty spirit

Secoriea Turner always had a kiss and a hug for her mother.
Continue reading on Atlanta Journal Constitution

Secoriea Turner always had a kiss and a hug for her mother.

These signs of affection would go on all day. Her mother, though, never got tired of being on the receiving end.

“That was my baby,” said Charmaine Turner. “This was my only daughter. She was so loving. Her skin just glowed. She was always happy and just full of joy.”

The 8-year-old Kipp Ways Primary School student was among five people shot and killed over the Fourth of July weekend in Atlanta.

She was also the youngest.

On Monday, Turner and her family were left with memories and the heartbreaking task of planning a funeral.

“She liked to dance every day,” said her mother, who cried as she described Secoriea as her “best friend.”

Photo: FAMILY PHOTO

The rising third grader, who would have turned 9 on Nov. 24, loved to post TikTok videos.

She talked about being a nurse when she grew up.

“With this COVID going on, she wanted to be able to help people,” said Turner, who lives in Atlanta.

Secoriea had two brothers who are 12 and 10.

She had three pet royal blue and pink fish — a gift — that she never got around to naming, though she did feed and talk to them.

She had a nickname, SeSe, but her mother preferred her real name, which came from her father’s, Secoriey Williamson.

Secoriea was also a cheerleader and a bit of a comedian who would say whatever came to her mind, said Williamson, 28, of Atlanta. He said he spoiled her, giving her money to buy what she wanted.

One of her biggest obsessions was slime — the gooey, gloppy kid confection — on which Secoriea once spent $100, said her father. They enjoyed traveling together including trips to one of her favorite places, the Nickelodeon-themed hotel in Orlando. Secoriea loved Louisiana cuisine including crawfish and king crab, Williamson said.

>> READ | Reaction to the shooting death of 8-year-old Secoriea Turner

Having grown up in a large family without his father, Williamson didn’t know much about being a father himself, he said. But he set his mind to be the best father that he could be.

“I will miss her smile. I miss her saying ‘mmhmm.’ I wish I could hear her say that one more time. I will miss calling her to come in the house,” Williamson said.

Audrianna Archibald Lawrence, her principal at KIPP Ways Primary School in Atlanta, said she was a “bright light,” a studious and sweet child who stayed connected with her classmates after the school closed for COVID-19.

Last year was Secoriea’s first year there. She had attended Atlanta’s Dunbar Elementary School in first grade, when she became fast friends with her teacher, Joya Florence.

Florence, 41, described her as a feisty, courageous and big-hearted child who brooked no bullying of other kids. She had a glittery unicorn backpack — she loved unicorns — yet was unusually precocious, calling Florence by a nickname, FloJo, that only adults in the school used. Florence told her kids couldn’t use that name, but Secoriea persisted and Florence gave up correcting her.

Photo: CONTRIBUTED

She became something of a backup teacher, ready with a stapler when Florence needed one and prepared to dole out orders to her classmates, who listened.

“If it was a little noisy, she would say ‘Ms. Florence, do you want me to tell them to be quiet?’”

They kept in touch after Secoriea moved on to KIPP.

Florence’s birthday was Saturday, and Secoriea told her Thursday, during their last conversation, that she would call to mark the day. She didn’t, and Florence heard from a colleague Sunday morning about her death.

“She was a very strong and powerful little girl,” Florence said. “There is no doubt in my mind that this child was going to do something amazing and great.”

On Saturday night, Secoriea, her mother and another adult were in the car.

>> RELATED | Atlanta Wendy’s protesters decry Secoriea Turner’s killing

Secoriea was supposed to go to her dad’s house before the fatal incident near Wendy’s but she had decided that she wanted to play with her cousins instead, said Williamson. The girls loved spending time together, he said. Even at such a young age, Secoriea had a big presence.

“The kids love her. Every kid that met her and even their parents, she had an impact on them,” Williamson said. “She made an impact on you fast. You would want your child to be around her.”

They had already celebrated the holiday at Turner’s mother’s house and were headed home.

“But we didn’t get a chance,” said Turner.

Photo: FAMILY PHOTO

The girl was riding in the car, which had exited onto University Avenue shortly before 10 p.m., Atlanta police spokesman Sgt. John Chafee said.

The driver tried to turn into a parking lot across the street from the Wendy’s parking lot where last month police killed Rayshard Brooks. People there were armed, and opened fire, striking Secoriea in the backseat.

You shot and killed a baby,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said. “And there wasn’t just one shooter, there were at least two shooters.”

Turner heard her daughter scream and call out for her.

She reached for her and held her, dialing 911. She said no one immediately answered.

“I just felt her trying to hold on, but she couldn’t,” she said through tears.

“Nobody helped me. I prayed to God and He didn’t help me. My baby died in my arms.”

Hosea Helps will hold a prayer vigil for the family at noon on Wednesday in front of Atlanta City Hall.

Her father said he wants justice for Secoriea.

“She didn’t deserve to die like that. She was only 8 years old,” he said. “My child’s life is the one that matters.”

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