Brayan Zavala was helping his father and brother fix a lawnmower in front of their home in a mobile home park in Clayton County, Georgia when a man walked up and shot him. The 13-year-old died in their arms, and the suspect fled the scene without a word, WSB-TV in Atlanta reports. This senseless act of violence left the mourning family with nothing but questions. The identity and motive of the suspect remain unknown. The suspect was allegedly armed with a shotgun and fired a single shot.
All that is known regarding the suspect’s identity is that he was wearing a ski mask, a long-sleeve sweater, and black pants, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
“The shooter didn’t even say I want your money, or this is a robbery or I’m assaulting you,” Brayan’s 16-year-old Jesus said in a statement. “He just came, stood there (in) silence, and shot my brother.”
The shooter drove off in a Chevy HHR with no plates, Jesus said, adding that before the shooting, the vehicle drove by first and turned around.
— John Spink (@johnjspink) October 16, 2020
The family was planning to celebrate Brayan’s 14th birthday next week. “It’s not fair,” Jesus said. “What’s the reason? Why? I don’t get it. I don’t get why this happened. My brother, what did he do? He’s just 13-years-old, a happy kid. All of a sudden, now he’s dead.”
Brayan was dead when Clayton County police officers arrived about 9:15 p.m., and police haven’t determined any connection between Brayan and the gunman, AJC reports. The outlet reports that Jesus launched a Go Fune Me to help the family bury Brayan in Mexico, and they’ve now raised over $42K toward their $50k goal.
“My dad is really devastated,” Jesus told reporters during a press conference where his father sobbed in the background holding a photo of Brayan. “He couldn’t talk because it’s his little boy. I’m trying to be as tough as I can be, so I can help them with something. It’s my brother, but I just want my family to be strong.”
Family members said they had moved to the area about four years ago and have no known enemies, 11Alive, NBC affiliate in Atlanta, reports. As of July 2019, more than 72 percent of the population in Clayton County is Black, and a little over 13 percent are Latino, according to the U.S. Census. Between 2000 and 2010, metro Atlanta’s Latino population grew 102 percent from 268,851 to 547,400, according to What’s Next ATL. The growth is expected to continue, with the Latino population increasing by 150 percent between 2010-2040. Clayton County is located 30 minutes south of Atlanta.
This has led to some speculation on social media that the crime may have been racially motivated, with author and activist Julissa Arce posting about the murder with the caption that says: “Georgia has the fastest-growing Latino population in the country. I can’t help but think this could have been a factor, if not THE reason.”
The investigation is ongoing, and Clayton County Police asks anyone who may have any information to contact them at 770-477-4479 or submit the tip on the Clayton County Police Department’s website.