JONESBORO, Ga. - After a year-and-a-half investigation, Clayton County officials announced Thursday afternoon that nine men have been indicted in the murder of two Jonesboro youths.
All nine are allegedly members of the Crips, and one suspect, Michael Desean White, is a DeKalb County elementary school teacher.
Tatiyana and Daveon Coates, ages 11 and 15, were shot and killed in 2016 when they found themselves in the middle of a gang-related shooting.
A key break in the investigation came days later, and more than 130 miles to the north, in Tennessee.
"There was gang activity that occurred in Chattanooga where there was a drive-by shooting,” said Stefan Schindler with Clayton County PD Criminal Investigations Unit. “During that drive-by shooting a weapon was dropped at the scene. That weapon subsequently was linked to our homicide."
On Wednesday, a grand jury indicted 11 people on 54 different charges. Those indicted include Veron Beanon, Sterlin Pate, Melvin Crockett, Devin Dunson, Christopher Spencer, Jamon Bynum, Sherman Thomas and Jamar Mitchell. The suspects are all charged with murder, cruelty to children and gang activity.
Clayton County officials said the children had no way of knowing about the violence coming their way. Several gang members, according to police, were looking for a 15-year-old boy who stole guns from the gang.
In 2016, police said intruders tried to force their way inside the home overnight while Tatiyana, Daveon and several other children, ages 6 to 13, were inside. At some point, the suspects began shooting but later escaped. Investigators said one of the children was the one to make the call to police.
In February 2017, Clayton County Police told 11Alive the suspects were gang members.
In a recorded interview, a member of the Crips said White was one of the shooters responsible for the deaths. Another member of the Crips, in a separate interview, said White and other gang members went to the scene of the crime to physically harm the people inside the home.
Months after the shooting, White started as a paraprofessional with DeKalb County schools. He became a fifth-grade teacher in August 2017.
DeKalb school officials said White passed two background checks with no signs of a criminal history.
Police were in disbelief when they learned of White’s day job.
"We were absolutely flabbergasted, I'll be honest with you," Schindler said. "To come to the realization that we had a fifth grade teacher in a public school teaching children to be part of this, yes, it took our breath away."
The district confirmed White was removed from his position until official results of the investigation are released. The district said all employees must submit to a thorough background check before being hired. They said White was checked twice in 2017 and on both occasions, nothing indicated he could be involved in criminal behavior.
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