Updated: Family of Martha Childress suggests immediate actions to combat Five Points violence

The family of the 18-year-old victim of last week’s Five Points shooting outlined their suggestions for a safer nightlife district Monday, with hopes of preventing future tragedies.

First-year international business student Martha Childress was critically injured when a stray bullet struck her spine after an altercation broke out near the Five Points fountain around 2:30 a.m. Oct. 13.

Doctors have told her family that she may never walk again. Childress was transported Monday to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, which specializes in treatment and rehabilitation of spinal cord and brain injuries.

Her stepfather, Ron Johnson, and Columbia attorney Joseph McCullough held a news conference Monday to discuss her condition and the family’s push for safety reforms.

“We’re not going to let this go,” Johnson said. “It’s really important that in the days and weeks and months ahead we actually see some actions … We don’t want to see something like this happen again.”

Titled “Martha’s List,” the family’s action plan focuses on immediate steps the community and law enforcement officers can take to combat violence in Five Points. The list of suggestions includes:
— Offering a free shuttle system to campus in lieu of lengthy waits for free cabs
— Using real-time monitoring of surveillance cameras rather than relying on them for post-incident arrests
— Training police dogs to detect firearms being carried downtown
— Enacting a dress code at downtown establishments to prevent weapons being concealed under clothing
— Improving the bond process in the legal system

McCullough, speaking on behalf of the family, stressed that the actions laid out in “Martha’s List” do not rely on legislation and can begin to take effect immediately.

There is no perfect solution to the problem of violence, McCullough said. But closing bars earlier and putting up roadblocks to discourage traffic, as some city leaders have suggested, will only send a message of hopelessness to those who want to cause trouble, he said.

“The idea of draining the oasis to save us from predators is no solution — it’s a surrender,” McCullough said. “We all want a safe community. We want an umbrella. We want the ability to come back here to this place.”

Beginning the road to recovery

Just over a week after doctors told her family a bullet had severed her spinal cord, Childress is recovering “ahead of schedule,” Johnson said.

Wounds to her liver and kidneys are healing as they should, he said, and a chest tube continues to assist her with breathing because of damage to her lungs. Her doctors and family were “pleasantly surprised” that she could be transported to Atlanta on Monday, he said.

Childress will be in rehabilitation at the Shepherd Center for at least 90 days, where she will be taught to live with what is expected to be a permanent disability.

“This might’ve taken away Martha’s legs, but it didn’t take away her brain and her heart,” Johnson said.


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