ATLANTA – A man was charged Monday in the stabbing death of a 14-year-old boy at a downtown Atlanta train station minutes after ringing in the new year at the city's Peach Drop celebration.
Tommy Christopher Collins, 36, was charged with murder, aggravated assault and weapons violations in the killing of Rueben Hand. The killing took place a few blocks from the Peach Drop, an annual event that attracts more than 100,000 revelers.
"We are clear that this is our suspect," said Wanda Dunham, the police chief of Atlanta's MARTA transit system. "This is the only person involved in this crime."
Dunham refused to comment on what led to the killing, but Hand's family said the teenager was trying to get on a MARTA train when a man accused them of stealing a cell phone. An argument broke out when Hand told him he didn't have his phone and then the man pulled out a knife, said Hand's mother, Deunya Taylor.
"It was just a senseless killing," she said. "The suspect wanted a cell phone, and my son didn't even have it."
Police had stepped up security for the Peach Drop, which takes place every year at Underground Atlanta, a shopping and entertainment district. Dunham said city, state and federal officials were patrolling the area when Hand was killed, and witnesses and surveillance video quickly led police to Collins.
"We knew who we were looking for, we just had to put a name with the person on the video," she said.
Taylor said her son was a free spirit: He went to the Peach Drop without telling her.
"He brought a lot of happiness," she said. "When you were down, he'd always bring you up. He'd put a smile on your face."
She said the suspect's arrest was a rare dose of good news amid her grieving.
"It brings peace to me," she said. "I'm happy now that I know that my prayers have been answered. I'm blessed. I'm happy more than anything."