Police gathering clues in Applebee’s shooting death

Police gathering clues in Applebee’s shooting death

Fayetteville Police Lieutenant Mike Whitlow (right) speaks Tuesday morning at a press conference about the Sunday morning shooting death of Applebee’s night manager Gregory Smith. Smith’s family, including parents Thaddeus and Recharetta Smith and grandmother Marguerite Smith, who is shown holding a recent picture of her deceased grandson with his 15-month-old daughter, attended the press conference to show support for the capture of whomever shot and killed him. (Staff photo by Danny Harrison)
Fayetteville Police Lieutenant Mike Whitlow (right) speaks Tuesday morning at a press conference about the Sunday morning shooting death of Applebee’s night manager Gregory Smith. Smith’s family, including parents Thaddeus and Recharetta Smith and grandmother Marguerite Smith, who is shown holding a recent picture of her deceased grandson with his 15-month-old daughter, attended the press conference to show support for the capture of whomever shot and killed him. (Staff photo by Danny Harrison)

Fayettevile Police are still trying to determine a suspect and motive in the Sunday morning shooting death of 27-year-old Gregory Smith of College Park, who was found in his car outside the Applebee’s Grill & Bar location on Hwy. 85 just south of Banks Road.

Smith was the night manager of that Applebee’s

Smith’s girlfriend reportedly found him around 6:30 a.m. Sunday dead in his car, which had a large bullet hole in the driver’s door window. Police say security camera footage released by Applebee’s shows Smith leaving the store at 2:58 a.m. Apparently, Smith never left his car once he entered it.

The location of multiple bullet casings found in the nearby parking area on the north side of the restaurant suggests the shooter, or at least the gun, was not inside a vehicle when shots were fired.

As of Tuesday press time, investigators said they were still waiting to review security camera footage from certain nearby businesses, which they say will likely reveal key information needed to identify a suspect in the case. Fayetteville Police Lieutenant Mike Whitlow said they are waiting on corporate-level approval to receive camera footage from at least one business located across the highway from Applebee’s, and he said that business has at least one camera that should clearly pick up what happened in the Applebee’s parking lot in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Whitlow said Tuesday that, after interviewing several witnesses already, there does not yet seem to be a clear robbery motive, and he said Applebee’s, like many other businesses throughout Fayetteville, has a system of making randomly-timed bank deposits during daylight hours and never makes late-night bank deposit runs. Smith reportedly did not have any large amount of money in his possession at the time of his death.

Additionally, Whitlow said the evidence they’re gathering points to Smith being an honorable and well-liked man who apparently did not have enemies who could be considered suspects in a case such as this, nor was there any evidence that any confrontations took place during Smith’s Saturday night shift inside the restaurant.

Just the same, Whitlow says he believes evidence, especially from witnesses and security camera footage review will eventually lead to a suspect and ultimately to an arrest in the case.

“We have a great relationship here in Fayette County and in Fayetteville with the public,” Whitlow said in a Tuesday morning press conference attended by dozens of Smith’s family and friends.

“This person is going to be caught,” said District Attorney Scott Ballard, who also attended Tuesday’s press conference. Looking into the lenses of television news cameras, he added, “If they catch you before you come in, don’t look for any mercy out of us.

“There is a short deadline,” Ballard continued. “Right now is when you need to be turning yourself in.”

Whitlow and Ballard both said it is too early in the investigation to list any possible charges at this point, though police since Sunday morning have said they suspect the case to be a homicide.

“We need to get all the evidence and see what we have,” Ballard said. “We need to see if we get any cooperation out of the person who did this.”

When asked why Ballard seemed to be taking this case so personally, Ballard replied, “I’m a sixth-generation Fayette County resident. My family lives here. People who taught me in Sunday school, who taught me in school live here. This place has been very, very good to me, and we’re just not going to tolerate this type of behavior.”

Jessalyn Dorsey, one of Smith’s cousins who is also executive director of Crime Victims Advocacy Council in Atlanta, spoke on behalf of the family in sharing the grief and shock they are experiencing since learning of Smith’s death Sunday morning. She said this is the second time she has had to go through the grief of losing a loved one to violent crime. Her only son Terrence was gunned down outside a “Sweet 16” birthday party in Marietta in 1999 when he was only 19 years old.

Since that time, Dorsey says she has spoken to the media many times regarding violent crime incidents in the Metro Atlanta area.

“I thought I would never have to do it again for anybody in my own family,” Dorsey said.

Smith is the only child of Thaddeus and Recharetta Smith, and he also leaves behind a 15-month-old daughter.

By Sunday afternoon, corporate officials with Applebee’s announced through the Fayetteville Police Department that they were offering a cash reward to anyone with information that leads to the arrest and conviction of whomever shot and killed Smith. While the amount of the reward is for now being kept confidential, Whitlow said it was a “substantial” amount of money.

Tuesday, Dorsey said she and the family will be setting up a memorial fund to benefit Smith’s 15-month-old daughter, and details about the fund will be made public soon.

Whitlow said anyone with information regarding the case, or regarding anything they may have seen on Saturday night or Sunday morning in the area that may be helpful to the case, should call Detective Scott Gibson at 770-719-4226.

 

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.