UPDATE 12/6: CLARIFIES that The Brothers Who Just do Gutters business was a victim of the crime and was not the suite where the party took place; ADDS details of problems with event center; ADDS exterior photos

Laila Reneé Harris, 15, a Sprayberry High School student from Cobb County, was enjoying a party at a empty office building in an industrial area of Morrow Saturday night when police say a boy who had been kicked out came back and opened fire. Laila and the other kids ran for their lives. But a bullet struck and killed her.

As friends and family start a GoFundMe for Laila’s mother, police investigate the incident, and reporters and photographers camp outside the building, the question of who authorized a party for hundreds of teens from all over metro Atlanta in a remote suburban industrial zone has yet to be answered.

Shattered glass around a bullet hole at 1078 Citizens Parkway in Morrow, where gunfire broke out at a high school party, killing 15-year-old Laila Harris of Sprayberry High School. This damage was done to a suite next to the one where the event hall was. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

The area

In recent months, this general area of Morrow has seen its share of dangerous and deadly activity involving young people:

An online listing for 1078 Citizens Parkway describes it as a “Brick and glass office warehouse/professional space. Several offices and large warehoue area. Dock high doors, sprinklered with 24′ ceiling height. Located right off I-75 in Morrow/Jonesboro. Not far from airport.” It doesn’t mention an events center as a possible use. County tax records show it is zones I3-Industrial Lots.

Who owns the property?

The Clayton Crescent traced the property’s ownership through county tax records and the Georgia Secretary of State’s online corporate filings. The building is owned by a company, Citizens NLAM LLC, which lists its principal office address as 19707 Turnberry Way #15H, a condominium in Aventura, FL, overlooking a marina near the beach and just up the road from Trump International Beach Resort. The registered agent is listed as Neer Kleinman, whose address is listed at a four-bedroom McMansion on Clary Hill Drive in Roswell, that sold for $799,000 on November 14, according to realtor.com.

One of two decals on Suite E, the site of ECM Rentals Near Me, an unlicensed event venue operating in an industrial area of Morrow. Tenants complained of fights, drinking, marijuana, and trash from the venue, which catered to teenagers. A 15-year-old girl, Laila Harris, was shot dead Dec. 3 outside the venue when someone who had been kicked out came back and shot up the party. (Photo: Robin Kemp/Clayton Crescent)

Kleinman also is listed as the registered agent for NEKL Investment LLC, a company organized “for any legal purpose,” and South Cobb Village HEA LLC, which is listed as a lessor of “nonresidential buildings (except miniwarehouses).” Kleinman owns a real estate company, Cougar Realty, Inc. We found a business registration for a Cougar Realty LLC on Briarmoor Drive in Warner Robins that was administratively dissolved in 2016; the registered agent was U.S. Corporation Agents, Inc. at 1420 Southlake Place Drive in Morrow. In Florida, an Esther Kleinman of Sunny Isles was registered as President of Cougar Realty, Inc. in 2012.

A check of Corporation Wiki, a public database that maps business associates, shows Neer, Esther, and several other Kleinmans are partners in several Florida corporations: Royal Dixie Manor of Florida, Inc.; Danoam Corp., Cek Properties, LLC; Neer-Am Corp., and Lino LLC:

Kleinman’s name did not turn up in an online search of licensed Georgia real estate agents. A check of Florida real estate agent licensees showed Kleinman’s license there expired in 2014.

The Clayton Crescent tried to reach Kleinman at that number to find out whether the owner had given permission for the party, whether an event organizer had rented out the space, or whether the property had been sold recently. We left a message on Kleinman’s voicemail Monday morning and will update with any response.

Who had permission to use the building?

We saw several security signs and labels, as well as a late-model Ring-type video doorbell, at Suite F, where the blinds and drapes were closed and the shattered plate-glass window with the bullet hole was taped up. (CCPD said in a press release that the party was at Suite E.) We rang the doorbell but no one answered. Crumbles of glass at the base of the window, a plastic tip from a blunt cigar, and a corner of a blunt wrapper were the only traces on the ground of what had happened two nights ago.

On Tuesday, the business owner in Suite F contacted The Clayt0n Crescent and asked us to point out that his business had nothing to do with the shooting. In fact, he said, he had complained to the property owner several times about young people partying at 2 and 3 in the morning. He also told the event center owners next door that they needed to stop filling up his garbage can with their liquor bottles.

Outside the building and on the front door are signs for a company called The Brothers that Just Do Gutters. We called the number on the sign and spoke with a company representative in New York, who said the Morrow location went out of business at the end of November and that the company is a franchise. That company had nothing to do with the shooting or the event center.

The owner of the Morrow office, who asked that his name be withheld for safety reasons, said his Ring camera would send him audio and video of young people hanging out and partying in front of his office.

“Upon going back Sunday afternoon approximately 3 o’clock to pick up the Brothers That Just Do Gutters signage, take that off the yard and try to remove the sign that’s on the glass, we noticed that one of the windows was busted. We previously had a catalytic converter stolen off of one of our box trucks, so I initially thought that it was an attempt to break in,” he told The Clayton Crescent Tuesday.

“As I went inside, I saw nothing was bothered, we figured either a rock or potentially it was a gunshot. It was in a weird, awkward spot, so we came to that determination, it probably was a gunshot, but we just didn’t know for sure,” he said. “Called the police to make a report, and as we were speaking with the police, she came in, the policewoman came in to check for a bullet. She also thought that maybe this was a bullet hole, and then as we came out the building, the church let out, in which the church folks said that the window on the side of them were also busted out.

You could see ’em kinda running around and getting into little fights and stuff, and it was just like no supervision. They did not have any supervision, there could not have been any security, any police, at all.

—Former business tenant

“And the policewoman started to walk the area and try to figure out what’s going on. However, she did say that there was a reporting of a shooting in the area ‘yesterday,’ which would have been Saturday. And then I left to get some tape and and try to tape the window up so that the kids playing from the church don’t get close to the glass that was broken.

The former site of a gutter business, which closed in November. The proprietor removed the signage Tuesday. He said his company had had nothing to do with the shooting that killed Laila Harris, 15, on December 3, and that the event center next door had been a constant source of problems for his business. “They did not have any supervision,” he said. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

“And then upon return, I received an article stating that there was a shooting in Suite E, and that there was a young lady that was killed. And that’s when I showed the police officer that was there that it definitely was a shooting, and they found that there were several bullet, I guess holes, at the other busted-out glass, and at that point, we knew that something terrible had happened, so my focus shifted from removing the signs to what actually took place there.”

He showed The Clayton Crescent where the bullet had entered the office where he says his mother sometimes would do the bookkeeping. Fine shards of glass and glass dust covered the floor, a paper shredder, and a work table. The bullet apparently bent up the corner of the mini blinds and may have left some marks on the acoustic ceiling tile, but no bullet hole or slug was visible.

Standing outside the office building, which is a long row of one-story suites with a narrow parking lot fronted a two-lane industrial street, he noted the series of bullet holes across suites from end to end, and confirmed that it apparently was a drive-by. Laila and the other kids ran down the long row of offices but they were like ducks in a shooting gallery. He said a bunch of kids ran through another suite, trying to escape to the loading docks behind the building. A black shoe lay on its side in the rain behind the building on Tuesday afternoon.

The businessman pointed out a boarded-up window.

He said Laila had died in front of it.

In March, when he first moved in, he said he asked what other businesses were in the building, including the King brothers’ business next door. He said Kleinman told him his neighbor did a little bit of everything, but didn’t give specifics.

“Those guys just weren’t very, they were very elusive, they were very stand-offish, you know, even just trying to find out like what our neighbor business did, they were very, you know, secretive about what they were doing,” he said. “And we also often would see, like, I would see on the Ring [doorbell] teens’ parties, right? During the summer. But then I would come in and we would see liquor bottles in our trashcan. So there were several times that I spoke to those guys about their patrons and what they were doing, and not doing, and what potentially they needed to keep a better eye on what’s going on because their patrons would also come and kind of hang out in front of our door at night, two and three o’clock in the morning, and I could hear them on the Ring, you know, talking and drinking and smoking weed and talking about they should break in, and ‘I wonder what they got in here,’ and…you could see ’em kinda running around and getting into little fights and stuff, and it was just like no supervision, they did not have any supervision, there could not have been any security, any police, at all.”

He tried to talk with King but found his neighbor stand-offish. A few times, he complained about the trash and the loitering, and he told King to stop putting liquor bottles from the event center’s parties in his trash. The man said he almost came to blows with King at one point. He said he complained to Kleinman about the events center but that Kleinman did nothing.

“In March, they had some spring parties. Then they had graduation parties. Then they had summer parties. And then it died down as far as the parties until Halloween, and then they had some Halloween parties, and then they had something for Thanksgiving, and I want to say that was unfortunately like the last time that I had any recordings or any video or anything.” He said his Ring subscription “lapsed last Tuesday…and I wasn’t aware. And I’m really bothered and disturbed that I don’t have video to give to the family or to the investigation to find out exactly what happened.”

A Ring-type video doorbell and several security stickers on the door of 1078 Citizens Parkway, Suite F, next door to the suite where gunfire broke out at a high-school party, killing Laila Harris, 15. The event took place next door in Suite E. The venue is owned by a commercial real estate firm based in Florida and the party appears to have been hosted by an unlicensed business. The business owner in Suite F had just shut down his company and is in the process of moving out. He said the property owner told him tenants usually pay for any damage, which means he’ll have to shell out about $1500 for a property his business no longer uses.He said the Ring camera was not working the night of the shooting and that his account had been canceled five days beforehand. (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

“There was something around Thanksgiving, or the day after Thanksgiving, something of that nature. They had a party that Thanksgiving weekend, and that was like the last time that I got a notification of any movement. But I really didn’t pay attention to it. And then, when we came Sunday and saw what had happened, that was the first thing I pulled up, and it was, it’s not recording the previous Tuesday. So I didn’t have anything from this past weekend.”

The Clayton Crescent received a copy of an invitation to the December 3 party that allegedly went out on Instagram. We are not publishing it because it features several people wjho appear to be juveniles.

The invitation reads in part, “____ BIRTHDAY BASH! SHOTS AT THE DOOR!!!,” surrounded by images of liquor bottles. “FOOD & DRINKS PROVIDED. PLUG ENFORCED. DM @____ FOR ADDY [address].” Below the words is an image of ten teenage boy and girls. On the left side are the Instagram handles of nine other teens besides the one hosting the party, which was on from “8:30-UNTIL.” The Clayton Crescent looked up the Instagram account for the hostess’ handle and found it had 0 posts but 1,976 followers and 1,379 accounts it was following. It also sported a new Instagram handle and was locked with a “This account is private” message. Taken together, those facts seem to indicate the owner deleted everything in that account.

Suites D and E at 1078 Citizens Parkway, Morrow, where a teen party ended in the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Laila Harris. A former tenant told The Clayton Crescent that Suite E (right) was the events center, and that the owners seemed to live in Suite D “sometimes.” (Photo: Robin Kemp/The Clayton Crescent)

Once, he said, he went inside the event center, which he described as strange. It had a reception area, a barbershop to the left, a lounge area with sofa beds, a bathroom, and two “back rooms.” He did not see the inside of one, but said the other had a sofa bed. “The dance floor was really dark, like too dark for dancing,” he said.

We searched several social media sites and tracked down an event space, ECM Rentals Near Me, which lists its address as 1078 Citizens Parkway in Morrow. The company’s Georgia business license was revoked and no one answered our calls or texts seeking comment. Customer testimonials on the company’s website, partyvenuesnearme.com, indicate two brothers, Alonzo and Johnandrew King, run the event space, with rentals as low as $75 per hour. A John’Andrew King in Decatur has a LinkedIn page for a business called Funeral Homes Near Me LLC but we were unable to find that business online or registered with the Georgia Secretary of State.

Alonzo King does appear as a registered agent or officer for other businesses listed at 1078 Citizens Parkway in Suite D:

Alonzo King‘s name also appears on two other administratively dissolved Georgia businesses, Dynamic Fundraising Group LLC of Covington (formed 2013, dissolved 2016) and Buying A Home With Cash LLC, which uses the venue address as the business address and lists King’s Covington address (formed 2019, dissolved 2021).

A site called evenues.com shows a listing for the venue, with a boilerplate rental agreement that places the liability on whomever rents the hall. It says nothing about security or who is responsible for providing it.

We made several efforts via phone, email and text to reach King and ECM for comment on this story but no one returned our messages before press time.

We also ran the parcel number, 13176D A004, for 1078 Citizens Parkway, against Clayton County’s permits and business license spreadsheets. We didn’t find any permits attached to that address, but we did turn up eight entries for four businesses:

How are these venues regulated?

See current business license and permit holders in Clayton County as of press time

Clayton County has many event centers in commercial strips and other spaces. Sometimes, a fight or shooting breaks out.

Event venues sometimes attract large groups of teens and young adults who hang out on the property, smoking, drinking, littering, fighting, and disturbing nearby businesses and homes. Most events are, in the sense of delinquent or criminal activity, uneventful—birthday parties, quinceañeras, weddings.

And an event center might not be suitable for all uses. Last winter during a severe freeze in the 20s, Commissioner DeMont Davis hired an event center for several days, where he and other community leaders provided a popup warming center for homeless people in the area. Volunteers and the venue owner went to great pains to keep the hall clean and orderly. Davis and the venue later came under fire from the landlord because it didn’t want homeless people in its retail property. Davis said the rental was an emergency matter of life and death and called for a more comprehensive approach to serving homeless people in Clayton County.

But the county does not allow event centers in areas that are zoned industrial. Chairman Jeff Turner said Saturday’s party took place in such an industrial area. The Clayton Crescent saw a facility with several large chemical tanks near the party site.

Turner said whoever hosts teen parties needs to provide security.

“The information you gave me gives me a reason to explore a little further on my part—well, on the board’s part, simply because it probably is not known as an event center to have parties,” Turner told The Clayton Crescent Monday afternoon.

Pop-up events pose particular problems: “You never know about it or hear about it until something actually happens,” he said. “If they’re doing that. If that’s the case. And I’m going to get with [Clayton County Police] and see what they’ve got. I’m sure they’re on top of it, doing the investigation. But if that’s the case, we really, really need to stick it to these owners who are using their business for unsanctioned or for things that are not within code or the ordinances if that allows them to do so.”

What can be done?

“You can rest assured that, if these pop-up parties are happening, unbeknownst to the board members, as well as to the police, apparently, then my question to the owner or who actually put that [event] on would be, did you have security there?….That would be another request of mine, would be for you to have at least an off-duty officer at these little kids’ parties—you know, the young folks’ parties—just to make sure that everybody feels safe and are safe.”

Turner said he would have to ask CCPD what information it might have on “the business itself, as opposed to, you know, they’re focused on the investigation right now and getting somebody locked up.”

However, people “should not be having these pop-up parties, especially in areas that’s unzoned [for event centers]. But moreso than that, especially if it’s young kids, they need to have the proper security in place.”

Turner warned that property owners need to keep tabs on their properties.

“The owners, especially if they’re realtors, should know about zoning,” Turner said. “And if that’s an area that’s not zoned for that purpose, then shame on them.”

And if they don’t, the county will.

“We really need to take it real serious in terms of the ownership and do something about it….There should be repercussions for their decisions. They should always know what they’re doing and what they’re leasing their property out for.”

Turner emphasized that whoever is responsible for Laila’s death is going to have to answer for what happened.

“I’m sure the family is going to sue the owner. But as far as what we can do is pull the license or write code violations, but that’s minimal compared to what the family’s going through because they lost a loved one,” he said. “But yeah, that company and the owners, they’re going to get sued. You can rest assured of that.”

As far as cracking down on unlicensed venues that violate county zoning law, the county writes them a ticket, the businesses go to municipal court, and a judge decides whether to impose up to 12 months and a $1,000 fine.

When an event ends in a shooting, assault, or other criminal offense, the perpetrator must face those separate criminal charges. A criminal conviction carries its own sentence.

But the business or businesses involved also could be held liable if they are sued and found to be partly or completely at fault in such cases.

The businessman says he is disturbed by Laila’s killing.

“It’s unfortunate, but this was bound to happen, the way they were running that business.”

Laila’s Saturday night party cost a few hundred dollars for the venue and maybe 50 cents per round of ammunition fired. For her family and friends, that’s not nearly a fair exchange for her life.

Supporters have set up a GoFundMe for her funeral expenses, which include “Bringing her Home to Saint Louis to be laid to Rest.”

How can you tell if your venue is safe?

It takes a little effort, but you can check into the background of an event center before you book it:

No freestanding “lookup service” or licensing exists for event venues.

Talk with your kid

Explain to your teenager or young adult the problems with pop-up venues and with clubs that serve underage patrons. Many of these clubs are overcrowded, some have lax or no security procedures in place, take place in remote or hazardous areas, and are magnets for drug and alcohol.

boy in yellow crew neck t shirt while holding tablet
Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

Establish trust and clear lines of communication with your teenager. Set boundaries for your teen and let them know what the consequences will be for their actions. Check out their cellphone and ask questions about the apps they use. Talk with your child’s teacher, counselor, or coach about who your child is hanging out with. Know where they are at all times and have a plan for them to get a safe ride home in an emergency. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ website, healthychildren.org, has tips on setting and enforcing curfews for children and teens.

Contact your elected officials

The Georgia Capitol.

People often ask what they can do to solve a problem. One way to help is to contact your elected officials and ask them to help find solutions. In Clayton County, that would be your county commissioner or chairperson. In the municipalities, that would be your city councilperson or mayor. You also can contact your state representative and state senator. Finally, you could contact your U.S. representative and U.S. senators. However, it’s always best (and often quickest) to start with your local officials, then work your way up the ladder. You can look up your various districts and wards on your My Voter Page at https://mvp.sos.ga.gov/, then find out who represents your address:

Robin Kemp is executive editor and CEO of The Clayton Crescent, which she founded in 2020. She has worked for Gambit, CNN, The Weather Channel, Clayton News, Henry Herald, and numerous freelance outlets....

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