Andrew James Thomas Coral Springs Florida man arrested in shooting death of Ronziyah Atkins, 8 year old girl killed in Belle Glade drive by shooting.
Andrew James Thomas, 20, of Coral Springs was arrested Monday in the shooting death of Ronziyah Atkins who was fatally struck during a drive by shooting on Friday evening according to a release by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
Ronziyah, known by the nicknames Ziyah and Biggs, was playing outside with her siblings and cousins when the shooter opened fire.
Ronziyah’s godbrother Deante Crawford was inside the house when the act of violence occurred, and he said that he heard Ziyah help save her family before she was shot.
‘She was telling her niece to go inside and don’t worry about her, just go inside,’ Crawford said according to a report via NBCMiami.
‘She just was loveable. She just was a sweet baby,’
Detectives do not believe that the girl was the intended target, with the girl shot at least once and later dying of her injuries at a local hospital.
A cooperating witness helped identify Thomas as the gunman before he was arrested in Coral Springs and charged with first-degree murder with a firearm, attempted first-degree murder with a firearm, and a felon in possession of a firearm.
The community mourned Ronziyah in a vigil held outside her home on Saturday where family and friends, including many classmates, gathered with pink and white balloons.
Family members told local media that the girl was a cheerleader who loved dancing and food.
‘She just was loveable. She just was a sweet baby,’ said Melissa McGee, Ronziyah’s grandmother speaking to NBCMiami.
The eight-year-old attended Gove Elementary School, which is a campus of 638 students.
The school which arranged for grief counselors to be available throughout the facilities released a statement following the 8 year old student’s shooting death.
Rising gun violence in the US
‘We will work together as a Gove family to get through this very sad time together,’ said Principal Kim Thomasson in a message to students’ parents on Saturday.
Community leaders held meetings this weekend as well to discuss how tragedies like this could be prevented in the future.
‘Everyone’s coming together to come up with an action plan so we can all work together to make sure this never happens again,’ said Palm Beach County School Board member Marcia Andrews.
‘An 8-year-old girl has lost her life. We’ve got to make sure we reassess everything we’re doing.’
This tragedy comes amid a surge in gun violence across the US amid the ongoing pandemic.
Just last summer, almost one thousand shootings were recorded in just one week with 430 people killed in total.
Gun sales are increasing as well, with reports showing that over 20 million guns were bought in 2021 a slight decrease from the record 22.8 million sales made in 2020 amid ongoing civil strife.
President Joe Biden responding to the surge of gun violence in recent days has called for tighter gun control laws, as Congress continues to shy away from making any meaningful laws regarding firearms amid claims that both Republicans and Democrats are captured by gun lobbies and the NRA.