Midtown shooting victim was UGA graduateBy Janel Davis and Marcus K. Garner
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
11:01 a.m. Monday, July 18, 2011
Family, friends and co-workers Saturday mourned the loss of a UGA graduate killed in a Midtown shooting spree, while her alleged assailant waived his rights to appear before a Fulton County magistrate.
Nkosi Thandiwe, 22, remained in the Fulton County Jail, charged with first-degree murder in a lunchtime triple shooting that left Brittney Watts, 26, of Decatur dead and two other women wounded Friday. The shooting occurred in a parking deck at 14th Street and Crescent Avenue.
Thandiwe's next court appearance is July 29 at 9 a.m. at the Fulton County Courthouse in downtown Atlanta.
Grief-stricken relatives reached at a Roswell home Saturday had little to say about Watts' death. Two women who answered a door at the home, where vehicles lined the street, would only say "no comment" before retreating back into the house.
But a glimpse of her life was detailed on the wedding website The Knot. According to her posting in 2008, Brittney Fox, her maiden name, grew up in Roswell and attended Roswell High School, where she was a cheerleader and played tennis. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2007 with a degree in advertising and sociology.
She met her husband, Brian Watts, while attending Roswell High and they married on Hilton Head Island in 2008. He played basketball for Roswell High but had graduated and was attending UGA and playing hoops for the Bulldogs when they met. Brian Watts graduated from UGA in 2005 with a degree in real estate and went on to receive a master’s degree in business-entrepreneurship.
Watts was a digital planning supervisor for 22squared at the time of her death. According to Linkedin, she joined the company in 2008 as a digital media planner. Before joining 22squared, she was an interactive media planner for Fitzgerald & Co. in Atlanta. Her wedding post also cited her stint at Fitzgerald & Co., which offered its condolences in a Twitter posting Friday.
Her online posting on The Knot said Brittney Watts enjoyed wine tasting, reading, shopping, and music.
Details about her alleged killer, however, were more sketchy.
Efforts to reach the family of Nkosi Thandiwe also were unsuccessful Satruday, but at least one neighbor where he lived recently in southwest.Atlanta recall a “respectful” man.
Gloria Butler, who lives across the street from a home on West Manor Lane where Thandiwe once lived, said she last saw him in September when he came over to offer his condolences on the death of her mother. “He was just a very respectful young man.”
But another elderly neighbor who lived next door recalled that occupants of the home would occasionally fired guns into the air in the back yard. That neighbor did not want to be identified.
Neither neighbor could say whether the suspect still lived in the brick house, which wasn’t as neat on the outside as other homes in the community.
A detention officer at the jail said Thandiwe's father, who was not identified, appeared for Saturday's hearing but left the jail without comment. A man leaving lashed out at the news media trying to question him.
Thandiwe's lawyer, Rickey Richardson, did not comment on why his client waived his right to Saturday's hearing. Bond has not been set in the case.
Thandiwe turned himself in late Friday afternoon, police said. He was charged with one count of murder and two counts of aggravated assault.
The shooting occurred shortly before noon Friday. Police say Thandiwe, a security guard at the Proscenium building, was hired to protect the building where the three victims worked.
Authorities said Watts encountered the gunman as he lay in wait on the third floor of the parking deck. He fired one shot, hitting her in the neck, then got into her Toyota Prius and drove away.
Police issued an area-wide lookout for the car, including a license plate number described by witnesses, and for a man matching Thandiwe's description.
Maj. Keith Meadows, head of Atlanta Police Department's major crimes division, said investigators believed the gunman was waiting for Watts.
As the gunman exited the parking garage, he fired several more shots, hitting Lauren Garcia, a 23-year-old intern for Midtown public relations firm the MSL Atlanta, and her co-worker, Tiffany Ferenczy, 24. Police believe they may have been random victims.
Rod Wright, Ferenczy's father, told Channel 2 Action News his daughter was going to have lunch with a group of co-workers when gunfire exploded on Crescent Street.
"All of a sudden, the car came out [of the garage entrance],” Wright said. “The car was blocked and the next thing you know, the guy comes out of the car and started shooting. That's when two of the victims got shot … my daughter and the other girl."
What followed was pandemonium, witnesses say.
Meredith Smith ran into the parking deck for cover when the shooting began.
"We were crossing the street and we heard a ‘pop, pop, pop, pop' and we ducked for cover inside the garage," Smith said. "When we came out, we saw a lady laying face-down in the middle of the street."
John Kupersmith, who works at Tin Lizzy's, heard the gunshots from the restaurant’s patio. He said rather than driving people inside, the shooting brought more people out of the nearby buildings.
“I was seating tables when I heard four to five gunshots in quick succession,” Kupersmith said. “Everybody went to look. I came out and stuck my head out onto Crescent. There was a pretty big group of people on the street.
“And a lot of people were surrounding the lady who was face-down on the ground.”
Garcia lay in the street, a bullet wound in her back, her purse and shoes strewn out across the ground in front of the entrance to the parking deck.
Ferenczy was hit in the leg.
"We're very fortunate," Wright said of his daughter. "[She was] shot in the calf ... she's going to be OK."
Ferenczy was relased from a local hospital, said Wright. She was back at her Atlanta home Sunday morning, he said.
"She's doing good," Wright said. "Her leg is sore, but she's doing good. We definitely expect a full recovery."
Watts was found in the parking deck dead, a single shot to her neck, police said.
"We are deeply saddened by today's unimaginable tragedy and the loss of Brittney Watts," said Julianna Bowman, a spokeswoman for 22squared, the Midtown marketing firm where Watts worked. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Brittney's loved ones, MSL group and MSL's employees who were injured today."
Investigators are looking at whether the gunman was a disgruntled employee who targeted Watts.
"It was a pretty bold move of him to shoot so many people in the middle of the day," Meadows said.
AlliedBarton Security Services confirmed that Thandiwe had worked for the company a little less than a year. The company said it conducted a thorough background screening under the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s security personnel clearance requirements, and Thandiwe's background check revealed no prior incidents.
The stolen Prius was recovered in southwest Atlanta, police said.
Police blocked off traffic along 14th street between Peachtree and West Peachtree streets and from 14th to 13th streets shortly after the lunchtime shooting until about 4 p.m., and patrons parked at the parking deck weren't allowed to remove their cars until then.
Businesses adjacent to the parking deck saw their lunch crowds thin as few people could reach the restaurant on Crescent if they weren’t already at one of the establishments, owners said.
Investigators are reviewing video footage from surveillance cameras inside the parking deck, and perched atop street lights and traffic lights at the intersection of 14th and Crescent and along Crescent.
Staff writer Christopher Seward contributed to this report.
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