‘Lord, help me!’: 911 calls detail fatal Newton shooting that led to Amber Alert

Credit: GBI

Credit: GBI

“Oh, God, I need help,” Peggy Burns cried into the phone to a Newton County 911 dispatcher from the bedroom of her Covington home Saturday night, just moments after being shot in the neck by a man she said was her granddaughter’s father.

“All the deputies, the ambulance, fire truck — everyone’s coming to you to help you and your family, OK?” the dispatcher reassured Burns.

It was just after 11 p.m., and Burns, 63, told dispatchers that a man she knew only as “Darian” — later identified as Darian Bennett — had broken into her home on Chandler Fields Drive and shot her and her daughter, 38-year-old Keashawn Washington.

“Lord, help me! I don’t know if my daughter’s alive,” Burns exclaimed.

As dispatchers spoke with Burns, they got a call from one of Washington’s older children who was in a separate part of the house.

“He (Bennett) had ran inside of our house and said, ‘We all fixing to die today,’ and then he had grabbed my mom’s gun and shot her in the back of her head, and my mom is laying down on the floor,” the 12-year-old calmly told dispatchers. “Like, she is literally, like, laying down, like on the floor bleeding, like shot in the back of her head.”

ExplorePolice: Father kills Newton County toddler, himself at end of statewide search

Deputies and other first responders arrived within minutes, and Burns was taken to a hospital. The sheriff’s office did not have an update on her condition Wednesday but said she’d been scheduled for surgery.

Washington did not survive.

Just two months earlier, Bennett had been arrested for threatening to kill Washington in July of last year, according to Newton County court records. He was charged April 4 with terroristic threats, a felony, and harassing phone calls. He was granted a $7,500 bond and released the next day.

At the crime scene Sunday night, Burns and the 12-year-old sounded the alarm about 1-year-old Jaquari Bennett, the boy’s baby sister. He told dispatch he thought Darian Bennett had taken her because Washington had been holding her.

By about 2 a.m., an Amber Alert was sent out for the toddler, who was believed to be in “extreme danger.” As authorities scrambled to locate Darian Bennett, a second alert was issued just after 7:45 a.m.

But it was likely too late, as Darian Bennett called police in Clayton County around 7:15 a.m. and said he was going to kill himself, the Newton County Sheriff’s Office said.

Authorities traced the call to the area of Riverdale First United Methodist Church, about 40 miles from where the child was taken. Arriving officers found them by the sound of gunshots coming from a secluded wooded area behind the church.

Jaquari Bennett had been shot to death. Darian Bennett also had taken his life.

The church’s pastor told Channel 2 Action News that Darian Bennett was not a member and had no connection to the congregation.

“My sister Keashawn Washington was working hard and saving to buy her children their own home and was already in contact with a real estate agent,” her brother wrote in a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to provide housing for the surviving children, the 12-year-old who called 911 and an 11-year-old girl.

“By any means I will fulfill my sister’s last dream, last wish, last hope, and get those children some land and a new home,” the brother said, adding that his mission is to keep the children safe — “and I want them to feel safe, if that’s even possible.”

“These children and their grandmother can’t go back to that place,” he wrote. “If I get my wish, none of them will ever have to cross over the threshold of the house where my sister was brutalized ever again.”