By Danny Harrison
The Applebee’s restaurant in Fayetteville will remain closed for the rest of the day out of respect for its manager, 27-year-old Gregory Smith of College Park, who was found shot dead early this morning in his car, which was parked just outside the restaurant.
According to Fayetteville Police Lieutenant Mike Whitlow, 9-1-1 dispatchers received a call around 6:30 a.m. from a woman identifying herself as Smith’s girlfriend. She reportedly said she was concerned when he didn’t return home around the usual time, so she went to the Fayetteville restaurant location to find him.
Whitlow says they have now confirmed that Smith left the restaurant at 2:58 a.m., which is a normal time for a manager to be leaving that restaurant after being open late on a Saturday night. He said there is no evidence at this time to suggest anything unusual took place inside the building, but there were multiple bullet casings on the ground and a large hole in the driver’s door window, which suggests Smith’s bullet wounds were not self-inflicted.
“We are investigating it as a homicide,” Whitlow said, noting that District Attorney Scott Ballard’s office and Georgia Bureau of Investigations have been on the scene and will continue to assist in the investigation.
According to Whitlow, Applebee’s is offering a “significant” cash reward to anyone who comes forward with evidence leading to an arrest in this case, which is being called a homicide.
Whitlow said this is the first Fayetteville homicide in more than a year. “This is unusual for us,” he said, noting that it is especially rare in such a high-visibility area as is the north side of the Applebee’s building, which is located directly on Hwy. 85 across from Chick-fil-A Dwarf House.
Whitlow said anyone with information about the incident, or anyone who may have seen anything unusual in the early morning hours around the Applebee’s area, is asked to call the Fayetteville Police Department at 770-461-4441.
Police are currently reviewing footage from all of the surrounding businesses’ security cameras.
“The business community has been very supportive in this investigation,” Whitlow said. He also said several private citizens have dropped by to offer information they hope will be helpful toward finding a suspect in the case.
Whitlow said the police department turned the parking lot crime scene back over to Applebee’s officials around 4 p.m., though they told police they would not be opening the restaurant for the rest of today.