Applebee’s offers reward in shooting death case
Fayetteville Police investigators were still actively working the scene of what they are calling a suspected homicide just outside the Applebee’s restaurant on Hwy. 85. The red BMW in this photo belonged to the victim, police say, and it is where they found him dead this morning. (Staff Photo by Danny Harrison)

Applebee’s offers reward in shooting death case

Investigators have now turned the Applebee's parking lot in Fayetteville back over to the restaurant managers, who say they will keep the location closed for the remainder of today. (Staff photo by Danny Harrison)
Investigators have now turned the Applebee’s parking lot in Fayetteville back over to the restaurant managers, who say they will keep the location closed for the remainder of today in respect for their colleague who was shot to death early this morning while sitting in his car outside the restaurant. (Staff photo by Danny Harrison)

By Danny Harrison
danny@fayette-news.com

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.

Danny Harrison

Danny Harrison, a 1992 Fayette High School graduate, began his journalism career with Fayette County News in 1995. After taking several leaves of absence to pursue journalism and Christian ministry opportunities, including a few out of state and overseas, he returned full-time to Fayette County News in August 2014. Harrison earned a bachelor's degree in pastoral ministry in 2009 while serving as a missionary journalist in England and Western Europe.