WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Warner Robins city leaders are talking about ways to restrict large parties and gatherings like the one that led to the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Tanyla Johnson, which happened at a large block party earlier this month -- several hundred people attended. City officials say they don't want that to happen again. The city currently requires a permit for parades or picketing, but no ordinance or permit for large gatherings like block parties, but that could change soon.
During Monday night's city council meeting Councilman Clifford Holmes said someone came to him with concerns following the recent deadly shooting, so he brought the discussion to mayor and council. He agrees there should be limits on gatherings but for good reasons.
“We do not penalize churches, school organizations that helps things for fundraising purposes, churches that have anniversaries or homecomings or what have you,” said Holmes.
Assistant Police Chief Chris Rooks says they're taking a look at party permit rules in nearby cities. He says they also need to adjust their current noise ordinance because it's ineffective.
Rooks says they're still in the early stages of creating guidelines for large gatherings, with the help of the city attorney, but these permits would be helpful.
“It allows us to know, the event is happening. It allows us to plan for an act and allows us to communicate with whoever was having the block party to explain what the rules are, what the rules, at what point, if the rules change or those violations or there's complaints from residents in the neighborhood. It allows us to better prepare,” said Rooks.
Pastor Josh Kirvin at First Baptist Church says the discussions around a possible permit aren't a bad idea -- but he does have some questions.
“For a permit like that, how do you monitor it? Does it become discriminatory? Are you going to be looking at one community versus another community? What's the penalty for not getting a permit?” said Kirvin.
Kirvin says there's a bigger issue that must be addressed.
“Why is it so easy that guns can be purchased and got by these teenagers? You have drugs. You have crime. So even if you stop the block parties, you still have those underlying issues,” said Kirvin.
Rooks says the investigation from the recent shooting is far from over. He says once they draft those permit plans they'll present them to mayor and council to take a vote.