McDonald’s worker among 4 dead in Georgia homicide, coroner says

A Georgia man shot and killed two of his relatives and a fast-food restaurant manager before killing himself Thursday in southern Georgia, the local coroner said.

The shooter killed his 50-year-old mother and 74-year-old grandmother in two neighboring houses and killed a woman, 41, at a McDonald’s restaurant in downtown Moultrie, Colquitt County Coroner C. Verlyn Brock told The Associated Press. He said the gunman, 26, then shot himself.

All three women appeared to have been shot multiple times, according to the medical examiner.

“I can’t for the life of me figure out what provoked him like that,”[ads1]; Brock said in a phone interview.

Brock declined to release the names of those killed, saying his office was still working to notify next of kin.

McDonald’s said the woman killed at the restaurant was a manager, but the company did not name her. Brock said he did not know if the gunman and the McDonald’s manager knew each other.

Moultrie police called in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to take the lead in investigating the case, which often happens with major crimes in Georgia. As of Thursday evening, the GBI had released a statement saying only that there had been “multiple fatalities” at various locations.

“We are working to learn more information and track down any additional witnesses,” GBI Special Agent Jamy Steinberg wrote in an email. He did not immediately respond to phone and email messages seeking additional information.

Jerry Goodwin lived next door to the gunman and his mother and two doors down from his grandmother. He told The Associated Press on Thursday that his wife heard shots fired before 1 a.m. Thursday while he was sleeping. Goodwin said the young man who lives next door had come outside and fired a gun a day earlier in the week while yelling something, and Moultrie police had responded.

However, it appears that the police did not immediately respond on Thursday. Goodwin said police and an ambulance arrived just before 6 a.m., and the ambulance immediately took one person away. He said the coroner later recovered two more bodies.

Goodwin said he did not know his neighbors well, although the man had come to his house after moving in several years ago to seek advice on installing a fence.

“I had never seen him hurt anybody or try to hurt anybody before this,” Goodwin said.

Moultrie Police Chief Sean Ladson did not immediately return emails seeking comment. A person who answered the phone at police headquarters said Ladson referred all calls to the GBI.

Moultrie resident Tanner Strickland said he knew two of the slain women.

“Both of them were two of the most wonderful people I’ve ever had the pleasure of being around,” Strickland told WALB-TV. “They both light up any room they walk into. Both truly have hearts of gold.”

Sabrina Holweger, who works at an optometrist’s office next to McDonald’s, told the AP that she and a colleague arrived at work before 8 a.m. to find a woman’s body shot and lying in a doorway to the restaurant, with police swarming around.

“It was really just scary not knowing if they had shot themselves,” Holweger said.

She said police blocked off a main street that fronts McDonald’s in the town of 15,000.

Holweger said the woman who died at the restaurant was the early morning manager and that the shooter had been an employee there. Holweger said it appeared the man killed the woman when she unlocked the door to let him in for an early morning shift.

George Suarez, owner and operator of the McDonald’s in Moultrie, said the restaurant will remain closed until further notice.

“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved restaurant manager and our hearts go out to all the victims of this senseless act of violence,” Suarez said in a statement from McDonald’s corporate office in Chicago.

The killings in Moultrie, in rural Colquitt County, about 60 miles northeast of Tallahassee, Florida, came a day after an Atlanta gunman killed one person and wounded four others at a medical office.

Chas Cannon, Colquitt County’s government administrator, said he was driving his daughter to school Thursday morning when he passed the McDonald’s blocked off by police tape and patrol cars.

“A homicide is pretty rare in our neck of the woods,” Cannon said. “It is surprising. But this day and time our jail is at capacity, our local jail is at capacity. There are many who break the law, unfortunately.”

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