When Conyers resident Jeffery Pitts, 36, went on a killing spree Sunday afternoon, brutally gunning down four – killing two and injuring his mother and father – he left a community grieving and searching for answers. What could have caused this Heritage grad to go on a senseless killing spree over an unpaid tab? But in the midst of this dark time, the Magnet community came together in an extraordinary way to lean on one another for support, love and healing.
The tragic events were sent into motion around 12:30 p.m., when Jeffrey Pitts had a dispute at the Magnet Package Shop, 4669 Bell Road, Conyers, with the store clerk and owner, Mun Hyuk Cha, 44. The dispute was reportedly over a previous unpaid transaction and Pitts' ID was held. Pitts got his handgun out of his car and “pointed a gun” at the clerk, according to Rockdale Sheriff Eric Levett, and asked for his ID back and left, driving off in a red Jeep. Rockdale County Sheriff's Office (RCSO) deputies were called and wrote a report for the disturbance.
Deputies then went looking for Pitts. They went to his residence located at 3535 Ebenezer Road, Conyers, but didn’t find him, and issued a lookout alert to Rockdale and Newton deputies.
Pitts then returned to the liquor store hours later, around 4:50 p.m., walked right into the store and opened fire inside, where he shot at Cha, customers and other store workers.
Customer Otonicar Jimquez Aikens was closest to the door, and though he ran towards the back, he was shot.
Another customer, Todd Scott, returned fired. Scott fell to the ground in the back of the store, drew his handgun and fired at Pitts, effectively saving the lives of those around him, according to Levett. Pitts ran out of the store as Scott shot at him.
Levett wouldn't say how many times each victim was shot or if Scott made contact with Pitts.
Cha and Aikens were the only two individuals to sustain injuries. Both died from the gunshot wounds.
After the shots were fired in the store, an emergency call from Pitts’ residence was made by Pitts' 64-year-old mother, Judith, whom Pitts shot in the arm.
Pitts also shot his 63-year-old father, Alan, in the head. Alan, reportedly retired from the DeKalb Fire department, was able to make a 911 call and tell operators his son was mentally ill and had shot him in the head.
Four RCSO deputies, Lt. Tom Brewer, Sgt. Dan Lang, Deputy Brad Lockridge and Deputy Paul Oberholtzer, and one Conyers Police officer, Cpl. Jerahmy Williams, responded to the scene.
Lockridge was the first to arrive and, armed with an assault rifle carried by select trained deputies, was the lone deputy who fired shots at Pitts, who had also equipped himself with an AR-15 with a double drum 100 round magazine in addition to a .45 handgun. Pitts was also wearing a ballistic vest padded with weight plates during the incident, according to Sherry Lang, public information officer for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
According to an autopsy released Friday by the GBI, Pitts killed himself with a single gunshot wound to the head during the shootout with law enforcement.
Lang says she can’t tell say how many shots were fired during the police shootout with Pitts, because it’s still under investigation.
"We have not determined how many shots were fired," said Lang. "We'll determine that whenever we get all shell casings pick up."
No deputies were shot, but all were put on administrative leave with pay while the investigation is still going on.
Pitt’s parents were transported to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. His father has been released from the hospital, but, as of Friday morning, his mother is still receiving treatment for her injury at the hospital and is in stable condition.
Mun “Moon” Cha
Conyers resident Mun Hyuk Cha, 44, operated the Magnet Package Shop for more than a decade, quietly sharing the lives, triumphs and sorrows of the Magnet community.
He would cash the checks of regular customers even when they left their ID at home, and would sometimes allow customers to run a tab. He would even sometimes assist them with rent or utility payments, said customers.
Cha and his wife Su Young did not have children but were trying to have a child, said customer Regina Carter, and he was trying to cut back some of his working hours on Sunday. Carter has been coming to the store since 2007 and helped organize the vigil at the store's parking lot.
Frankie Layfield said Cha treated everyone with love, like family.
Joe Fanning, another customer of Cha's, says he's "hurt" by his loss. "That's a real hurt feeling," he said. "They're real good people. As nice as they could be."
Fanning took his 5-year-old granddaughter, Alissa, to the memorial too. She liked going to the store because Cha and his wife would always give her lollipops.
Many customers fondly remembered the candy and lollipops he would give their children.
Carrolton County resident Dionne Ellison-Gower took a two-hour trip to Rockdale in order to pay respects to Cha and place flowers at the memorial.
"My husband and I used to live right down here," she told The News. "My husband owned a bar in Covington. We used to get all our liquor purchases from here.
"We drove from Carrollton to leave some flowers. It's heartbreaking. I heard last night... I was praying to God it wasn't him or his wife."
Since his death, community residents and his customers have shown him an outpouring of love. More than 100 people came out to a candlelight vigil held Wednesday, June 3, at the Magnet Package Shop in a show support for the Cha and Aikens families.
Cha’s family gathered for the funeral from Georgia, the Philadelphia area, and California. Cha’s parents, who had previously owned the store and had retired, flew in from Korea.
Funeral service for Cha is today, Saturday, June 6, at 11 a.m. at Lee's Funeral Home and Crematory, 4067 Industrial Park Drive, Norcross, GA 30071.
Covington resident Jimquez Aiken, 39, was a husband and father of three, with a 2-year-old, 8-year-old and 15-year-old.
Prior to going to the liquor store, Aiken was at home celebrating his son’s eighth birthday, says Darrell Stodghill, Aiken's father, and he was only making a quick trip to the store.
"What makes it (even worse), yesterday was his son's (eighth) birthday," Stodghill told The News on Monday. "Cooking on the grill, he said, ‘I'll be right back.'"
Aikens' family, including his mother, father, 15-year-old daughter, aunts, sister, cousins, and more were surrounded by hugs and warm support at the candlelight vigil held Wednesday at the Magnet bottle shop. He was a hard worker and provider, they said. “He was a very family-oriented guy. He loved his wife, his kids, his dogs, his old cars,” said his aunt, Sandra Stripling.
The last conversation his 15-year-old daughter Shatonica remembers was on Saturday. “He told me he wanted me to be happy and be successful in my life,” she said.
Donations were collected for both families at the vigil, but at the end of the night, Cha's parents gave their portion to Aikens' daughter to support her and her brothers.
Funeral service for Aikens was Friday at the Church at Covington, 11975 Hwy 142, Oxford, GA.
Aikens would have turned 40 on October 13 of this year.
Because of his actions and quick thinking that saved the lives of the other people in the store, leaders have been singing hometown hero Todd Scott's praises.
"I consider him to be a hero," said Sheriff Eric Levett about Scott, a Covington resident. "Although we did have a fatality at that location, he did save some other lives that were inside that business."
The 44-year-old owner of the Social House bar and grill in Porterdale doesn’t necessarily agree with that assessment.
It started like any other Sunday. He, his fiancé and her sons and their friends had rented a movie to watch that night. Scott left the house to make what he thought was a quick trip to the store.
“When I heard the gunshots, I thought it wasn’t happening. Then I smelled the gunpowder... For a split second, looked at another gentleman on the floor. Then I stood up and fired in the direction of the guy that was in there shooting,” he said.
"I'm not a hero. I just did what I thought should be done," Scott later told WSB-TV. "I definitely wasn't going to lie on the floor and take it."
“I just wanted to get home to them,” his loved ones, he said.
It was the first time Scott had to fire his registered handgun.
“If I save lives, I’m happy for that,” said Scott. “You should save lives if you can.”
Pitts’ parents purchased their house on Ebenezer Road in 1986. Pitts was only seven years old.
He attended Heritage High School and was a member of the 1997 graduating class.
Rockdale County resident Don Pollard was a member of the same class. "I don't remember him all that well," he said. "It's been almost 20 years."
However, he was able to recall a few details, like Pitts having a hearing impairment.
"He had to wear two really large hearing aids," said Pollard. "It was the first time I saw someone my age wearing hearing aids."
He described Pitts as "pretty reserved" and meek. But, in Pitts' senior year, he seemed to open up a little bit more to people.
"He was pretty quiet," Pollard said." He wasn't very popular but seemed to grow into his own. He seemed to have more friends by senior year."
Like most people who saw and heard about the events that transpired Sunday, Pollard was stunned when he heard about what happened, but even more so when he saw it was a former classmate.
"When I saw the picture (of Jeffrey Pitts) in the news I recognized him. I was pretty shocked," he said. "We've never had that kind of incident with any other classmate.”
Pitts may have suffered from some type of mental illness. Not only did his father say so in the 911 call made Sunday, but he also hinted at his son having “issues” in an incident report filed with the RCSO nine years ago.
On April 17, 2006, Pitts called deputies to his residence to report suspicious activity occurring at his residence at 3535 Ebenezer Road.
Pitts told Deputy Julie Cooley that he believes someone has been coming in the residence, which was shared by Pitts' parents and brother, and taking things. On another occasion, Pitts said he found women's underwear on his dresser, heard knocking on windows at night and gunshots
There were no signs of forced entry,
"Jeffrey believes someone has gotten a key, but he (couldn't) advise how they might have obtained it," Cooley wrote.
Pitts also believed one of his neighbors had gotten someone at the power department to cut the wires to the house alarm system so that it doesn't go off when he comes in.
Cooley then spoke with Pitts' father, Alan, on the phone.
"He stated that Jeffrey has ‘issues' and this is not the first time he's displayed paranoid behavior," wrote Cooley.
In another RCSO report from April 17, 2004, two days after Pitts turned 25, a female victim reported Pitts making harassing phone calls to her for several weeks.
"She stated (Jeffrey) keeps calling, confessing his love for her and he attempts to get her to confess her love for him," Deputy Michelle Haywood wrote in the report.
Rodgers claimed that a year ago she spoke to Pitts at a bar for about five minutes by way of her boyfriend, who knew Pitts from them attending high school together.
Shortly after that encounter, Pitts started calling her. Rodgers claimed to have never given Pitts her number, but Pitts told her that she did.
Pitts also told Rodgers that he knows where she lives as well.
"Rogers stated, she has asked Pitts not to call her and that she was not interested in him," wrote Haywood. "Rogers stated, Pitts continues to call her and now she fears him."
On Pitts' birthday four years ago, a deputy was called to his residence again. This time the call came from a "third-party caller" who stated the resident at this location sounded upset.
When Deputy Christopher Lee arrived at the scene, he found Pitts sitting in his Jeep in his boxer shorts.
"I attempted to make contact with Mr. Pitts but he appeared to be in an altered state," wrote Lee in his report. "I was unable to get any information from him and was unable to determine if he was on medication."
On the ground next to the jeep was a pair of pants belonging to Pitts. Inside the pocket of the pants was a knife.
Pitts had no criminal history with the RCSO. His only brush with the law in this area came in November 2010.
The Newton County Sheriff's Office (NCSO) arrested him for driving under the influence and being in possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor. He received a fine, community service and 12 months of probation the offense.