Teen killed near Howard School in Chattanooga

Teen killed near Howard School in Chattanooga

March 6th, 2013 by Beth Burger in Local Regional News

Hamilton County District Attorney Bill Cox; Tim Carroll, Investigator with the District Attorney's Office; Capt. David Woosley; and Capt. Eric Tucker, from left, talk with Howard School Principal Paul Smith, right, at a crime the scene Tuesday morning on Carr Street. According to police spokesman Nathan Hartwig, a 16-year-old black male was shot and killed.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

Courtney D Birt

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

The body of a Howard School sophomore was found just beyond the front door of an abandoned house on Carr Street on Tuesday morning.

Lamunta Williams, 16, was pronounced dead after he was shot multiple times, including at least once in the head, according to Chattanooga police.

Tonya Jones, Williams' aunt, choked back tears as she stood just a few homes away from where her nephew was gunned down. Crime scene tape and marked patrol cars prevented her from getting closer.

"A couple of weeks ago he got into it with a girlfriend or something and she was hitting on him and he wound up smacking her back. He wound up going to juvenile [detention] for it," she said.

Police interviewed three witnesses who say they watched 18-year-old Courtney Birt shoot Williams after hanging out in the abandoned house at 2623 Carr St., a couple of blocks from the school.

Within a few hours, police took Birt into custody.

For a few weeks Birt was saying he would kill Williams because Williams reportedly assaulted the mother of his child, Tylisha Henderson, on Valentine's Day, according to an arrest report.

"I guess she couldn't let it go, called whoever. They said a dude chased him out of school and he ran into an empty house," Jones said.

As a precaution, the Howard School was placed on lockdown shortly after shots rang out. After the shooting, at least one person was seen by witnesses running toward the school, according to police.

The doors to the Howard School were locked, and Chattanooga police officers stood nearby as Principal Paul Smith peered out the windows and into the parking lot. The lot filled up quickly with police cars. Smith declined to comment.

Outside the school doors, a few students stood with their mothers shouting at the police through tears. Some offered descriptions. Some pleaded for the violence to end.

Williams' shooting marks the third shooting in two days that Chattanooga police have investigated.

On Portland Street, a male was wounded Monday when he was shot in the ankle. Then a couple of hours later a 17-year-old was wounded on Camden Street and taken to a local hospital in a personal vehicle.

There were mixed reports about whether Williams was attending school Tuesday morning or what led up to the shooting.

"He had a lot of opportunities because his life was ahead of him. He was 16," said Takia Spivey, Williams' cousin.

Williams, who had a criminal record as a juvenile, struggled to turn his life around. Even at such a young age, people sometimes are not inclined to give second chances, Spivey said.

"It's not what I used to be, it's what I'm presenting now," she said.

She said Williams would say things like, "I don't be with them no more. I don't do that no more."

Birt, who was shot in the leg in July and is a documented Bounty Hunter Bloods gang member, already faces charges in Criminal Court of possession of a deadly weapon, reckless endangerment, assault and aggravated burglary.

On Twitter, many people mourned the loss of Williams, while some vowed revenge.

"Gone but not forgotten the person that held them 15 bullets gone get their!" wrote one person.

Spivey said she hopes her loved ones find closure.

"I just hope they find who done it," she said in a resigned voice. "Even if they do, it will never fill that spot."

Birt was held without bond Tuesday evening. He is scheduled to appear March 12 before Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck.

Staff writer Kendi Anderson contributed to this story.