Susan Coker and Cindy Ivester said they both felt a calling to do something after the death of 16-year-old Andrew Messina, who was killed by a single bullet wound from a sniper after an hourlong standoff with police at his Eagle Watch home.
“Justice for Andrew Messina” started as a Facebook page and has grown to more than 130 followers in the six weeks since the teen’s death.
Coker, an Alpharetta resident, said she did not know the Messinas before Andrew’s death, but has a 20-year-old son who had a “tough time” as a teenager and felt she could relate.
“When I heard about this incident, it took my breath away because it could have been me, it could have been my son,” Coker said.
Within two days after Andrew was killed, Coker started “Andrew’s Justice” Facebook page.
“I was just very compelled to continue to find out what I could about this,” Coker said.
She said she started the current group page in May, “Justice for Andrew Messina,” and connected with Ivester through that page.
In a news release Wednesday, the group said the killing has left many unanswered questions.
“The goal of Justice For Andrew is to advocate for a change in the way SWAT Teams and negotiators deal with minor children (under the age of 18) when in a crisis situation,” the release stated.
A group of about 30 concerned citizens meet at 7 p.m. every Friday at the home of an Eagle Watch resident to discuss its goals and strategy, the release said, with fundraising, letter-writing to government policy makers and raising awareness about the focus of its efforts.
“We have got to do research ourselves to see what the current policy and procedures are,” Coker said, adding the goal is to have “Andrew’s Peace Policy” become law.
The group has also been active in several local political initiatives, but isn’t looking to polarize the county, Coker said.
“We want to make a positive change,” Coker said. “We don’t want anything negative to come out of this.”
Ultimately, Justice For Andrew is seeking a change in state legislature regarding SWAT team training and procedure when involving children under 18 in crisis, the release said.
The group welcomes more involvement.
Those wishing to take part can visit its Facebook page, www.Facebook.com/JusticeForAndrewMessina.