He had just moved his family into an apartment and bought a car, and Jaseramie Dion “JD” Ferguson had a job as a Wal-Mart security guard. The 25-year-old wanted to be a police officer, but until then, being a guard paid the bills.
With a wife and three children under the age of four, Ferguson couldn’t afford to be picky, even though his job came with risks. His job was to stop shoplifters, and that’s what Ferguson tried to do Sunday night when he saw a man trying to steal three flat-screen televisions from a Lilburn Wal-Mart, according to police. It cost him his life.
On Monday, Ferguson’s family and friends mourned the young father, who would have celebrated his 5-year wedding anniversary with wife, Tiana, in July. The family’s pastor, Timothy Daugett, told The Atlanta-Journal Constitution that Ferguson’s death possibly could have been prevented if he had also had a gun.
“The question on our hearts is, ‘Why was he not equipped with the tools to protect himself?’” Daugett said. “You have people out here in the world that are crazy that will take a life at a moment’s notice, and I think we know that was part of the job. We feel like he should have been equipped to do that job safely.”
Shortly before 9 p.m. Sunday, Ferguson confronted a man attempting to push a cart filled with three TVs out of the store. When Ferguson intervened, the alleged shoplifter grabbed a gun and fired, striking Ferguson. The gunman didn’t get away with the TVs, but he left the store driving an older model sedan and remained on the loose late Monday.
Ferguson was taken to Gwinnett Medical Center, where he died from his injuries.
Surveillance camera images captured blurry photos of the suspect and his car, and Lilburn police asked for the public’s help to identify the man. By Monday afternoon, investigators had received possible tips to the man’s identity, Capt. Thom Bardugon said. But they had not yet determined what prompted the man to shoot, killing Ferguson.
Ferguson’s death is the first homicide of the year for Lilburn, which had two homicides reported in 2015.
“We don’t know,” Bardugon said. “You never know what someone is thinking.”
Ferguson had worked at the Lawrenceville Highway store since August, when his family returned to metro Atlanta after temporarily living in California, Tiana Ferguson said. Her husband had been employed by Wal-Mart for about a year and had recently applied for a job as a police officer.
The young family had struggled in the past, but Ferguson was determined to provide for his wife and children, including 1-year-old son, Jordan, and daughters Aryana, 3, and 3-month-old Ava. During the hardest times, the Fergusons clung to their faith.
“God’s got us,” Ferguson would tell his wife. “And I’m not going to worry about it.”
Still, his wife worried about him working as a security guard. Wal-Mart security guards are not law enforcement officers and do not carry weapons, a company spokesman said Monday. Some stores do employ off-duty officers, but the Lilburn store did not, Wal-Mart spokesman Brian Nick said.
“We have very few calls there,” Bardugon said.
Sunday night’s call was to report that Ferguson had been shot. Monday morning, shoppers filed in and out of the store, though some employees were talking about what had happened, one customer said.
Meanwhile, Tiana Ferguson and her family are focused on immediate needs, such as funding a funeral and explaining to the children that daddy isn’t coming home. A Go Fund Me page was set up to assist the family. Throughout the day, the family’s pastor said there was an overwhelming sense of peace.
“The Ferguson family is confident that God will get them through this,” Daugett said. “We don’t understand it now, but we know in due time that God will make sense of it all.”
Anyone with information on the suspect’s identity is asked to contact Lilburn police at 770-921-2211 or Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-8477.
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Staff writers Lauren Foreman and John Spink contributed to this article.