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Posted: April 10, 2016

Atlanta leaders ‘heartbroken’ over community member’s shooting death

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Photos: Funeral for community leader Barney Simms
Barney Simms (CREDIT: Channel 2 Action News)
Photos: Funeral for community leader Barney Simms
A memorial for Barney Simms is placed in front of his home. The prominent civic leader was shot and killed in his southwest Atlanta front yard Saturday afternoon, police said.

By Ellen Eldridge

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A well-known community member and leader was shot and killed in his southwest Atlanta front yard Saturday afternoon, police said.

Barney Simms, the 70-year-old president of his neighborhood association, was found dead in his yard on Connally Drive. His front door was unlocked and his black Lexus was missing, police said.

RELATED: Atlanta pays tribute to community leader Barney Simms

Sgt. Warren Pickard, a spokesman for Atlanta police, said Simms was found on the ground in the bushes that separated his yard from his neighbor’s yard, with what appeared to be a single gun shot wound.

Police told Channel 2 Action News witnesses heard gunshots at about 4 p.m.

Atlanta City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms called Simms a pillar of the community who would not only don T-shirt and jeans to pick up trash in his neighborhood but also wear the finest suits to meet with leaders who could be held accountable for change.

“I am simply heartbroken by the senseless killing of Barney Simms,” Bottoms said in a statement. “As an active and gracious leader of the Bonnybrook community, there was no task, too big or too small, that he engaged in to make his neighborhood, and city, a better place.”

Hattie Dorsey, the founder and former president of the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, has known Simms for decades.

“We haven’t overcome the shock,” Dorsey said.

They shared common cause around issues like affordable housing and neighborhood development.

“He had a strong voice on behalf of his neighborhood, community and the whole of Atlanta’s underprivileged population and demonstrated that concern by working with the Atlanta Housing Authority for many years,” Dorsey said. “His voice, personality and all that he was as a friend will be missed by many of us. You can’t do everything, but he tried to make a dent.”

Brenda J. Muhammad, executive director of Atlanta Victim Assistance where Simms served as chairman of the board, called Simms a friend who was like a brother. She picked up his daughter to take her to church Sunday morning.

“It’s so, so sad that the chair an organization that serves victims of crime, ultimately has become one,” Muhammad said. “I hope his death is a clarion call that we’ve got to do something about the violence that plagues our community.”

Simms helped the community in many ways, such as teaching at Perimeter College and served on the board of the Atlanta license and review board. He retired from the Atlanta Housing Authority.

He had been a member of the Antioch Baptist Church North since 1969, according to the church website.

“Brother Simms has established a remarkable record of volunteerism to Atlanta’s children and to the vitality of Atlanta neighborhoods covering more than three decades of service,” the website says.

Police have yet to make any arrests in this homicide, but Pickard said officers found the missing Lexus in East Point shortly after midnight. Investigators are processing the car for evidence.

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