The two Georgia children fatally shot over the weekend during what had previously been described as a “home invasion” were actually the unintended targets of gang retaliation, according to investigators.
At a news conference Tuesday, Clayton County Police Chief Michael Register announced that Saturday morning’s shooting “[was] gang-related” and that “the individuals involved in this appear to be members of a metro Atlanta gang.”
Register did not identify the gang behind the killings, but he said the two victims — 15-year-old Daveon Coates and his sister, 11-year-old Tatiyana Coates — were not the shooters’ intended targets.
Register said that a few weeks earlier, Tenieka Brown, the victims’ mother, allowed one of her friends and that woman’s five kids to move into her Jonesboro, Georgia, home. The friend had moved from Tennessee, and her oldest child was a 15-year-old boy.
“The 15-year-old boy had been involved in gang activity” in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and “we believe an act he committed against a local gang here made them retaliate in such a vicious manner,” Register said Tuesday.
He said the “punks, cowards and murderers” behind Saturday’s violence visited Brown’s home the night before the shooting, looking for the 15-year-old boy.
According to Register, the teen — realizing he was in danger — traveled to Chattanooga before the Saturday slayings. Register said the Atlanta-based gang members followed him, and on Sunday afternoon there was a gang-related shooting in Chattanooga.
No one was injured in that shooting and no arrests were made, a Chattanooga Police Department spokeswoman tells PEOPLE.
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Working with authorities in Chattanooga, Register said his detectives were able to track down the 15-year-old, who is now in police custody.
“We feel that the 15-year-old is a critical element in the case, and we also want to ensure his safety,” the chief said Tuesday. “Until we find those who are responsible for the crime, we will continue to dedicate our resources to this case.”
The fatal shootings occurred about 5 a.m. Saturday. Though there were several children at the home at the time, according to multiple reports, there were no adults present.
The other children in the home were unharmed.
Brown spoke with PEOPLE about her two children earlier this week.
“Daveon was really into basketball and football. He followed the Tennessee Titans and the Tennessee Volunteers,” she said. “His idol was LeBron James.”
Brown said Tatiyana was a typical little girl who “loved playing outside.”
Brown is trying to raise enough money to bury her children through a GoFundMe campaign.