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Athletic complex in Savannah closed day after deadly shooting

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 2:51 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 13, 2021 at 10:58 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - An athletic complex in Savannah will be closed Wednesday, Oct. 13, a day after a deadly shooting in the parking lot.

According to a news release from Chatham County government, the Jennifer Ross Soccer Complex will be closed Wednesday, Oct. 13.

According to the county, the shooting and a separate, unrelated incident occurred at the facility over the past week.

County officials are working to develop stricter security measures for the facility.

Savannah United, a youth soccer club in Savannah, sent a statement to parents notifying them that the complex will be closed Wednesday. The club said it “will plan to resume soccer activities once we feel appropriate safety measures have been taken.”

Chatham County, who runs the soccer complex, will be working to develop what they call more stringent security measures for the facility in the coming days.

We also know the names of both the victim, and the man police say is responsible for fatally shooting him Tuesday night.

Mario Wallace was booked Tuesday night into the Chatham County Detention Center, charged with felony murder for the death of Rajah Young. We don’t know what led up to the shooting, but bystanders inside the soccer complex told us they faintly heard arguing, followed by gunshots from the parking lot area.

Parents and coaches of kids playing soccer and football rushed to get to safety immediately following. There were no other reported injuries. Savannah Police are taking the lead on the investigation, and say both men knew each other, and were watching one of the games going on Tuesday night. They couldn’t reveal any more information beyond that. A few hours after the deadly shooting, Savannah city leaders, including the mayor, came to speak with us about what happened.

“This is not how kids should grow up. I didn’t have to do it, and they shouldn’t have to do it either,” said Mayor Van Johnson.

Tuesday nights deadly shooting here in the parking lot is one of a handful of recent incidents that have resulted in either police being called, or those associated with youth football teams being disciplined for their behavior, that’s according to Savannah and Chatham County leaders.

We don’t know at this point what new, more stringent measures county officials will be looking to implement here in the coming days. But that’s what county staff and leaders have been looking at Wednesday, and will continue to do so on Thursday. We spoke with Chatham County Chairman Chester Ellis, who’s out of town, but has been closely following what happened Tuesday night. He described some of the work that lies ahead.

“I have asked staff to meet me tomorrow morning when I get back to town. And we are going to go over security procedures for Jennifer Ross. I’ve asked them to have our Recreation Department there so we can talk about what needs to be done, what the county needs,” said Chairman Chester Ellis.

While the county operates the complex, the area around it is technically the City of Savannah’s jurisdiction.

The shooting happened in Savannah’s fourth district, and the councilman over that area went to the hospital Tuesday night to support the victims family.

“It was a horrific feeling, to be there with the family, hear that awful news, over something that was entirely preventable. And everybody knows that. So there’s got to be a better way for the city moving forward, and how we handle youth sports to prevent these incidents in the future, and mediate disputes before they turn into gun violence,” said 4th District Alderman Nick Palumbo.

Happening Wednesday night, there’s a group called the Savannah Coalition of United Youth Leaders who are organizing parents and other leaders for a community awareness conversation, where information will be shared specifically relating to youth sports. It was held at Memorial Stadium.

Parents got a chance to express their concerns about their children’s safety and how the county and teams can help keep everyone safe. Mental health counselors, city and faith leaders joined them to show their support for the children and families there.

City leaders and members of the coalition wanted to make it clear that the kids and their families can also lean on their coaches.

“No matter what circumstances came onto the soil or the grounds there, we want to make sure the young people have an opportunity to be able to be active and proactive. If they’re not involved in this, they’re going to be involved in that. And that is not what we want them involved in. We want them taken care of because they are the future of this community,” said Jay Jones, former Chatham County Commissioner.

“The lessons we learn from this is “If you see something say something” but also even at their age, that they’re not in violent events, and that they lean on us as public officials, lean on the coaches and people who care about them and support them,” said Savannah Mayor Van Johnson.

“Actions show more than words so when you see people with boots on the ground in the community out here and really trying to make change. It really does help us and it encourages us because it gets hard and you get discouraged but when they come in, it strengthens your faith a little bit more,” said Savannah Royal Lions Youth Organization President Todd Rhodes.

Rhodes says they were thankful for the support from city leaders.

The coalition has launched a Savannah Youth Sports crisis hotline for anyone who may need help or someone to talk to.

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