A case of Stand Your Ground, or just murder?

Credit: John Spink

Credit: John Spink

The angry man at the Waffle House counter had left his gun out in the car. The cook was packing a .357 magnum, apparently worried about times like this. It was late at night, at a time they say few good things happen.

Police arrived a few minutes later to find Adrian A. Mosley, 33, face down and dead on the floor. Soon, they were taking away the cook, Quintavius Martin, 25, in handcuffs to Fulton County jail.

The June 13 incident was the second time in two weeks in which a shooting at a metro area Waffle House left someone dead. The earlier case had an off-duty Griffin police officer killed, shot in the back when he tried to arrest a man’s girlfriend.

Police said the second event started just like the first one – a woman causing a scene and being asked to leave. In the latter case, the woman left on her own, but Mosley was perturbed that the cook refused to serve him.

“I’ve got a gun, meet me outside,” the soon-to-be dead man allegedly told the security guard, adding, ”I’m going to fire you up.”

Eyewitness accounts are often disjointed, but one thing is clear from the eight accounts — Mosley, a muscular fireplug of a man at 5-7, 180 pounds, wanted a piece of the baby-faced cook, who was about his size. And how people saw this event – and how the cook perceived it – will determine whether this is a successful Stand Your Ground case or a murder.

The question is: How scary and threatening was the unruly customer?

One witness saw Mosley stand up on a stool as he was trying to get at the cook. Others saw him try to climb over the counter or scoot around it. The security guard sought to restrain the angry man. Martin told police the man kept swinging at him across the counter, threatening both him and the security guard. Then then man threw a glass of water into the cook’s face.

The cook told police that he pulled his pistol and fired. He thinks three times. He told police he was not supposed to have a pistol. It’s against company policy.

The fact that he has been terminated from his short-order gig is the least of his worries – Quintavius Martin, whose only other offense was shooting paintballs at other teens seven years ago, faces charges of murder and carrying a gun without a license.

I called Jerry Henry, executive director of Georgia Carry, the organization that thinks it would be a safer world if more lawful people were packing. (He said two members of his organization prevented a robbery at a Gwinnett County restaurant a couple years ago.)

He noted the cook wasn’t breaking the law for smothering and covering while armed. But, he did concede that bringing a gun to work was a firing offense because it broke the restaurant’s no-guns policy.

Waffle House officials say they have remained firm in continuing that policy, even as Georgia’s law was changed this year to allow gun-owners to carry their weapons to more places.

I sent a copy of the preliminary police report to Henry, who read it and called me back. The first reports told of the customer being extremely unruly and making threats about having a gun in his car and telling the guard and the cook, “I’m going to kill you.” But the early police report did not have anyone other than the cook say anything about Mosley trying to crawl over the counter to get him.

“By reading the report, it does not seem like a Stand Your Ground case,” said Henry. “He made the threat but said, “I gotta go to my car.’ He didn’t say, ‘It’s in my back pocket.’ “

Stand Your Ground, which is law in Georgia, says a person does not have a duty to retreat when facing a reasonable, perceived threat. What exactly is “reasonable” and what one “perceives” are legal terms d’art that fuel debate on talk shows and in taverns and courtrooms.

Later, I called Henry to tell him about expanded witness statements that had several people saying the customer was trying his best to get at the cook.

“I was kind of surprised they arrested him as quickly as they did,” Henry said. “We tell everyone that if you’re going to use lethal force then you better be ready to convince 12 other people.”

J. Tom Morgan, DeKalb County’s former district attorney read the same preliminary reports and said, “It seemed reasonable that he was in danger. Do you have the right to a pre-emptive strike? (The threat) has to be imminent and a reasonable person has to believe his life is in danger.”

In between talking with the Georgia Carry guy and J. Tom Morgan, I decided to pull Mosley’s arrest log, one that stretches back 12 years and nine arrests.

Here’s a taste: Aggravated assault, 2003. Armed robbery and agg assault with a deadly weapon, 2004. Kidnapping and cruelty to a child, 2005. Possession of a firearm during a felony, 2009. Agg assault and pointing a pistol at another, 2009. Battery, 2010. And last year, two counts of agg assault when he allegedly pointed a pistol at two women.

What happened in those cases? Hard to say. All but the last one are in storage and the latest was in a judge’s office working its way through the system. The difficulty of keeping troublemakers locked up in Fulton County is a well-worn story to be addressed another day. The judges often point at the district attorney’s office for indicting far too many cases and not moving them quickly. D.A. Paul Howard places a lot of the responsibility back on the judges for not working hard enough.

Whatever the case, Adrian Mosley was a man not to be trifled with – especially at 4:30 a.m. after he’d spent time at a nearby Fulton Industrial Boulevard strip club. The father of a friend said he was respectful and changed his attitude in recent years. A neighbor said Mosley had started driving a truck.

Edwin Wilson raised Quintavius Martin since he was 2 years old but divorced his mother and has since been out of his life. “He was a good kid, quiet, humble,” Wilson told me. “I raised him to do right.”

He said Martin is a sports nut who has been working grill jobs for years, has two children and is trying to do right by them. “He’s out there working, out there earning.”

Wilson also knew the dead man and many of his friends. He knows where Adrian Mosley grew up, where the family still lives. They all grew up around the same place, near I-285 and I-20 on the city’s west side. It’s a gathering of neighborhoods with small, suburban ranch homes on winding, wooded streets. But many of the older residents are dying off and new people, renters, are coming in and changing the feel of community.

“Adrian was going down a path,” said Wilson, the man who raised the cook, a man whose home has a large plywood board nailed across a front room window and an angry dog chained by the front porch.

“I’m sorry it happened,” Wilson continued. “But sooner or later something like that is going to happen to you. I’m sorry my son was the guy who had to do it.”