By Joe Johnson
A jury on Friday convicted an Athens woman of murder and feticide for fatally shooting a pregnant woman two years ago at an eastside apartment complex.
Following a weeklong trial, the jury found 29-year-old Kiresa Shanice Cooper guilty of malice murder, felony murder, feticide, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
Western Judicial Circuit Judge H. Patrick Haggard imposed two consecutive life sentences, plus 10 years.
Cooper's charges stemmed from her firing a gun during the course of a fight on July 22, 2019 at Clarke Gardens, where police said there were several fights throughout the day, some of which were associated with Cooper.
One of the bullets shot by Cooper struck and killed 24-year-old Auriel Briana “Thumpa” Callaway, an innocent bystander who was rushing her 3-year-old son to safety.
She was struck by a bullet that was fired in the fight near her apartment, where she reportedly was rushing her young son to safety.
Callaway was four months pregnant with a child, who also died.
The young woman was well-known and liked, and her death galvanized members of Athens’ Black community into taking action to reduce gun violence through such initiatives as youth mentoring, conflict resolution and a gun buy-back program.
Several young members of Athens’ black community die each year from gun violence, but Callaway’s death touched a raw nerve that set into action the grassroots anti-violence movement.
“Auriel's death was I guess the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back for our community.” said her cousin, Vanessa Gary-Johnson.
Speaking about Cooper’s conviction on the family’s behalf, Gary-Johnson said, “This still does not bring justice for Thumpa.
“Her life is still gone, as is the life of her unborn daughter,” she said. “However, it does start the process of healing for our family and brings a sort of closure, but our hearts still ache because she’s not here physically with us.”
Gary-Johnson noted that her cousin’s death led to two mothers losing daughters, “but at least Kiresa’s mom can still talk to and see her child. It is our prayer that gun violence will soon cease.”