Bessemer educators reflect on loss of 8-year-old killed in Riverchase Galleria shooting

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BESSEMER, Ala. (WIAT) — Educators in Bessemer are sharing more about Royta Giles Jr., the 8-year-old boy who was killed in a shooting at the Riverchase Galleria last Friday.

“It’s just a difficult and heart-wrenching situation and my heart just goes out to everybody right now,” said Van James, former assistant principal at Jonesboro Elementary, where Giles attended school.

The school’s slogan outside reads, “The star maker school,” and James said Giles was well on his way.

“Just a bright, charismatic, second-grader. A lot of times you hear people talk bout the it factor and I really felt like he had the it factor,” he said.

James said he and Giles developed a bond at school, where the two would often chat. It was through these conversations that James learned Giles wanted to be a musician.

“The fact that it was an 8-year-old child who has so much endless possibilities, endless potential, that’s what hurts the most,” he said.

Investigators said Giles was an innocent bystander when he was shot in the mall. Three others were injured in the gunfire, but have all been released from the hospital.

Hoover police announced the arrest of Montez Coleman, 22, who was charged with capital murder. Officers are asking for tips identifying other persons of interest seen in mall surveillance video.

“I just pray for peace so that people will do better and to know better than to go to the mall with a gun and then secondly to try and solve a conflict that way. It honestly could have been anyone. A week ago I was in that same mall will my family and it could have been any of us and it is very unsettling,” Jonesboro Elementary Principal Anjell Edwards said.

Jonesboro staff members said there will be counseling available for Giles’ family. Leaders said resources would be available to faculty and students when they return to the building.

Leaders are still working out ways to honor Giles and help his family. Bessemer City Schools Superintendent Autumn Jeter said donations have been overwhelming.

“The love in the city limits of Birmingham and of course right here in Bessemer has been phenomenal and we have had so many supporters whose hearts ache as well and who want to give and help the family as well as help our school system,” Jeter said.

Hoover police did not announce any new information about the investigation Monday. Hoover PD tweeted that officers continue to work tirelessly on the case.

If you have any information about the persons of interest in the surveillance photos, call Hoover PD or CrimeStoppers.


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