AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – During the first month of the year, the city of Augusta saw a rash of crime, including several deadly shootings. NewsChannel 6 sat down with Sheriff Richard Roundtree to talk about those crimes.

“This is not just a law enforcement problem this is a community based problem,” the sheriff explained.

Not long after Augusta rang in the new year, deputies responded to several violent crimes. The first homicide was 8-year-old Arbrie Anthony, playing outside of her home on 3rd Avenue in Dogwood Terrace. Then two other victims, Raven Tolbert and Mercedes Gibson gunned down in their home on Hammond Avenue and Bungalow Road. The deputy coroner confirmed 19-year-old Johndrick Oliphant was shot to death and found lying in the middle of Stone Road. And the last homicide victim, which included three others being shot, was 20-year-old Kevin Coatney. All were leaving 706 Lounge off Deans Bridge Road.

Sheriff Roundtree exclaimed, “You cannot tell me out of a 100 people not one person saw what happened. Not saw a vehicle description?”

The sheriff told NewsChannel 6 that club incident qualifies as a mass shooting. And like many cases, witnesses are remaining silent. But he said closed lips only hurts the community in the end.

“That is a culture of silence that is either going to lead to more death, more destruction in our community,” he said. “You being silent contributes to these individuals that they feel like they can walk around and carry these guns and get away with it because they know you’re not going to say anything.”

Other violent crimes noted through NewsChannel 6 include shootings that left six people injured, a stabbing and four robberies, all from the start of 2022.

Richmond County Sheriff’s Office confirms the following violent crimes:

*Note: There were four homicides, but five homicide victims.

“What we’re seeing now is that these victims of these homicides and these perpetrators of these homicides are young African American males and that is a concern for us here in the city,” he shared.

And knowing who those involved and impacted by the crimes are revealed something else to Sheriff Roundtree. It’s generational.

“I’ve been in law enforcement almost 30 years and what I’m seeing is some of the same individuals that I arrested 20-25 years ago. The children, nieces and nephews of those individuals are now circulating through my jail perpetrating the same crimes their fathers, their uncles their cousins are perpetrating,” he said.

But he has a message for people in Richmond County in order to continue to curb crime.

“It’s going to take the entire community to say what are we doing about these individuals who are going out to commit these crimes? Are we going to tolerate it? Or are we going to sit in silence?”

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps