Elementary School Teacher Allegedly Murdered 11-Year-Old Girl and Her Big Brother
Four counts of murder have been filed in Georgia against a 26-year-old elementary school teacher, who is one of 11 defendants facing dozens of combined counts for their alleged roles in the 2016 slayings of an 11-year-old girl and her older brother, PEOPLE confirms.
According to investigators, Tatiyana Coates and her 15-year-old sibling, Daveon Coates, were asleep when suspected gang members looking for a different teen broke into a Jonesboro home the victims were visiting and fatally shot them both.
All 11 defendants have been identified as alleged members of a gang police would not name. They were looking for a teen from Tennessee who’d stolen guns from them when the fatal shootings occurred about 5 a.m. on Oct. 22, 2016, authorities believe.
Though there were several children at the home at the time, according to multiple reports, there were no adults present. The other kids were unharmed.
“Today is a good day,” said Chief Kevin Roberts of the Clayton County Police Department, in announcing the 54-count indictment during a news conference on Thursday morning.
Roberts said that with the arrests, his department was serving “notice to criminals and, more specifically, gang members who commit crimes in Clayton County that they will be apprehended and prosecuted to the greatest extent.”
Most of the suspects in the case were apprehended Wednesday, soon after the indictment was returned.
Michael De’Sean White was among those arrested in connection with the killings and, along with eight of the 10 other suspects is charged with murder. The 10th and 11th suspects are accused of home invasion and weapons violations.
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White works as a teacher at Toney Elementary School in Decatur, just outside Atlanta, where he has been on the staff since August, authorities confirm.
He is being held without bond and does not have an attorney on record who could comment on his behalf. He has not yet entered pleas to his four murder charges.
He has been removed as a teacher at Toney until an internal investigation is completed by district officials.
Discussing White’s arrest, Clayton County detective Stefan Schindler told reporters on Thursday that he was “flabbergasted” to learn “a fifth-grade teacher in a public school, teaching children, could be a part of this.”
The investigation was described by officials as “strenuous” and involved a number of law enforcement entities.
The suspects will be arraigned in May, according to prosecutors.
Speaking to PEOPLE in 2016, the victims’ mother, Tenieka Brown, said she was “taking it one day at a time.”
Of her children, she said, “Daveon was really into basketball and football. He followed the Tennessee Titans and the Tennessee Volunteers. His idol was LeBron James.”
Brown said Tatiyana was a typical little girl who “loved playing outside.”