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Telfair Street shooting claims the life of 33-year-old man

Richmond County Sheriff's Office
Richmond County Sheriff's Office(WRDW)
Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 3:55 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 20, 2021 at 5:20 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - As violent crime flares in the CSRA and across the country, a 33-year-old man has become the latest victim in Augusta.

Johnny Willingham, of Augusta, was found early Tuesday inside a residence in the 1900 block of Telfair Street near the intersection with Battle Row, according to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies had been called there at 12:35 a.m. to investigate a report of gunshots.

Willingham was found unresponsive lying on the floor with at least one gunshot wound, authorities said. He was pronounced dead at 1:20 a.m.

His body will be sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation lab in Decatur for an autopsy.

The fatal shooting is the latest as the CSRA deals with a resurgence of violent crime in the past few days.

Early Thursday, a shooting at a residence on Aiken Road in Graniteville claimed the life of 26-year-old Joccoui Jackson. Hours later in the 400 block of Audubon Circle in the Belvedere/Clearwater area, Rebekah M. Clark, 28, was fatally wounded in a drive-by shooting. The night before those shootings, Venus Shelton, a 39-year-old mother of three, suffered five gunshot wounds at the Fox Den Apartments behind Copeland Elementary in Augusta.

After the shootings last week, News 12 heard from local residents who said they’re terrified by the increase in violence.

In Augusta, Commissioner Catherine McKnight told News 12 the violence “definitely needs to be talked about.”

McKnight said: “I wish that somebody would come out and speak and address to the public and citizens of Augusta.”

She says the city needs more deputies and security at places where crime is high. She plans on bringing this up for discussion at future meetings.

Law enforcement leaders say they need to hear from the public to solve these crimes. They said video or the smallest piece of information can be vital to finding criminals.

Authorities told News 12 in May that crime isn’t just going back to the level it was before the pandemic; it’s actually far higher.

In Richmond County by the end of May, we’d seen almost as many shootings in five months this year as we did in all of 2019. At the time, we spoke to a Richmond County sheriff’s deputy who blamed it on the easing of pandemic restrictions.

“I think everybody’s been pent up for so long, now people have gotten out, people are becoming a little bit more excitable,” said Chief Deputy Patrick Clayton of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.

The surge in violent crime isn’t unique to the CSRA. The nation as a whole is seeing a rise in violent crime after a decline during the height of the pandemic.

The situation has gotten bad enough in Atlanta that Gov. Brian Kemp says he will ask lawmakers to consider proposals to fight crime in the metro area in a fall special legislative session.

Kemp told the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee on Monday that he wants measures to be considered in a session already planned to redraw electoral districts.

House Speaker David Ralston says House leaders will propose $3 million to hire 20 new state troopers to focus on some issues in metro Atlanta, and beef up anti-gang and anti-human trafficking enforcement.

The hearing comes days after Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms proposed a $70 million crime-fighting plan that includes 250 more police officers

At the national level, President Joe Biden met a couple of weeks ago with law enforcement, local elected officials and advocates to discuss his efforts to address gun crimes.

Biden highlighted his administration’s push to increase funding for local law enforcement to improve community policing practices through the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill he signed into law earlier this year. Some states and local governments are also using funding from that so-called American Rescue Plan to fund youth employment programs and other measures that could help curtail crime.

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