Christian college baseball player shot and killed near Atlanta church: 'This was not a random homicide'

 A young baseball player from Chicago was shot and killed earlier this week near the Christian college in Atlanta, where he had an athletic scholarship.

On Tuesday afternoon, the body of Jatonne Sterling, a 20-year-old baseball player at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, was found in a vehicle parked at Lyke House, a local Catholic Center and church serving CAU, Spelman College, Morehouse College, and Georgia State University.

Police believe that Sterling and two associates — Keontay Holliman-Peoples, 25, and another male — had previously exchanged "some correspondence" and arranged to meet at that location. After Sterling entered the vehicle that day, a "dispute" erupted between the three men and ultimately turned deadly.

"There was some type of dispute that occurred inside the vehicle," Atlanta Police Deputy Chief Charles Hampton said at a press conference on Thursday. "Whatever type of dispute escalated into gunfire, and then that's where we had the exchange of gunfire. Everything happened inside that vehicle."

Police have since arrested Holliman-Peoples and charged him with felony murder, aggravated assault, and possession of a firearm. In his young life, Holliman-Peoples has been no stranger to law enforcement. According to the New York Post, he already has a criminal record in at least two states.

Holliman-Peoples, who is not a student at CAU, was also wounded by gunfire during the incident, though it is unclear whether the victim shot him. Police are still searching for the vehicle's third occupant, whose name has not been released.

"This was not a random homicide," Hampton reiterated.

Sterling hailed from Chicago, where he was a star player on the Morgan Park High School baseball team, which won a state championship in 2021. Sterling's former coach, Ernest Radcliffe, is devastated by the loss.

"I got to bury another ball player," Radcliffe said. "We're not supposed to do that."

Radcliffe canceled practice for his team on Wednesday in honor of Sterling, and the Morgan Park Mustangs, many of whom still remember Sterling as a teammate, have dedicated the upcoming season to him as well.

"I never thought anything like this could happen," MPHS junior Derek Johnson said. "I always looked up to him as a leader. He was older. He always put his best effort into everything he did."

College scouts clearly took note of Sterling's skill as well, and he was offered a scholarship to play for CAU, a historically black university affiliated with the Methodist church. Sterling was a sophomore at the school at the time of his death, but he is not listed on the school's 2023 baseball roster. The position he played on the field and his intended area of study at school are both unknown.

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