Tobias Palmer (left), Laquitta Palmer
Photo: Fulton County Sheriff's Office
Photo: Fulton County Sheriff's Office

Woman may testify against brother in deadly SW Atlanta gas station shooting

Prosecutors expect an Atlanta woman to testify against her brother when he stands trial for an armed robbery and deadly shooting outside a gas station.

Derrick Dawson was killed in the May 13 shooting at a Citgo on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in southwest Atlanta. Tobias Palmer and his sister, Laquitta Palmer, were both charged in the case — Tobias with murder and other charges, and Laquitta with hindering the apprehension of a criminal.

The woman pleaded guilty last week and was sentenced to five years probation as a first offender. She has said under oath that she will testify against her brother if he goes to trial, according to Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard. 

The Palmers were identified as suspects after Atlanta police released surveillance images from the Citgo. In the images, a man was shown walking into the convenience store and leaving in a vehicle.

Atlanta police investigators asked for help finding the man in this photo. He was later identified as Tobias Palmer.
Photo: Atlanta Police Department

Dawson was found soon after in the parking lot with gunshot wounds to his side, police said at the time.

“Tobias Palmer attempted to rob Dawson at gunpoint before firing two shots that ultimately ended the victim’s life,” Howard said in a statement. “Tobias Palmer then rummaged through Dawson’s pockets. It was unquestionably a senseless and brutal crime.”

MORE: Officials ID man killed at SW Atlanta gas station; search for shooter continues

When Tobias Palmer returned to his vehicle, Howard said his sister flung open the driver’s side door. Laquitta Palmer helped Tobias leave the scene, but “there was no evidence discovered to show that (she) was responsible for carrying out the armed robbery and murder,” he said.

For that reason, only Tobias Palmer was charged with murder and armed robbery, as well as a number of related charges. 

Atlanta police investigated a deadly shooting May 19, 2019, at a Citgo gas station on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
Photo: JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

Laquitta Palmer identified her brother as the shooter when she was apprehended May 22, according to Howard.

Her plea, filed Friday in Fulton County Superior Court, was not negotiated. The district attorney’s office, which recommended she be sentenced to five years in prison, does not agree with Judge Shawn LaGrua’s decision to dole out probation.

“But, as often is the case in Fulton County, Superior Court judges accept non-negotiated pleas that do not take into account the recommendation of the state,” Howard said in the statement. “In this case, the judge sentenced Laquitta Palmer to five years of probation under Georgia’s First Offender Act. The state disagrees with the sentence based upon Laquitta’s provable actions and involvement in the crime.”

The district attorney has butted heads with Fulton County judges in the past for being too lenient, especially on repeat offenders. Active judges typically do not comment on court cases.

As conditions of her plea, Palmer also must obtain her GED and submit to drug screenings and a mental health evaluation. She is not to have any contact with her brother until the case is over.

A trial date for Tobias Palmer has not been set. He is awaiting trial in the custody of the Georgia Department of Corrections, according to officials.

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