It took a Fulton County jury only three hours to convict a former Uber Eats driver of killing his customer.
Robert Bivines was found guilty Friday on multiple murder counts in the February shooting death of Ryan Thornton in Buckhead. Bivines was sentenced to life in prison plus five years on charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a weapon during the commission of a felony.
Bivines, 36, had long claimed he shot and killed Thornton, 30, in self-defense after he was threatened while delivering food to his victim’s condominium on the night of Feb. 17.
"I just want to apologize for everything that occurred. To the family, to the court," Bivines said in court. "I know my words are useless, so I'm at a loss for words."
Thornton’s loved ones, including fiancée Jerica Jones, asked Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter to give Bivines the maximum possible sentence. Jones was the first person Thornton called after he was shot.
“This has been overwhelming, but at the end of the day I don't really believe in the death penalty," Jones said in court Friday. "(Bivines) took a lifetime from me, a future family... I can only ask that Robert Bivines serve every day for every year of every count he was charged with.”
The day leading up to the shooting was already somber for Jones, who had cremated her father, prosecutors said. Jones and Thornton, who were recently engaged, decided to stay in and order food.
At 10:40 p.m., they used the Uber Eats app. An hour later, Thornton would get the food from Bivines but never returned to his condo.
Bivines testified earlier this week that an upset Thornton came down to his white Volkswagen Beetle, grabbed his food and complained Bivines didn’t bring the food upstairs. At that point, Bivines said he tried to resolve the issue Thornton had and only asked him two questions: “What’s wrong?” and “What happened?”
Bivines said Thornton approached him in an aggressive manner and motioned with his hand in his pocket as if he had a gun, so Bivines grabbed his gun, fired four shots at Thornton then drove away, he testified.
“I felt harmed,” Bivines said in court Thursday. “I thought he was going to shoot me.”
Prosecutors argued Bivines aggressively baited Thornton in to coming back to the car and intentionally fired shots at him. They also disputed Bivines’ story noting that no weapon was found on Thornton and he didn’t make a threatening move like he had one.
And if Bivines were truly afraid for his life, they said, he had other options, including calling police for help.
“Words alone are not sufficient to justify killing someone,” Fulton County Senior Assistant District Attorney Lauren Travis said during closing arguments Thursday.
Defense attorney Jackie Patterson said his client panicked.
Surveillance video from that night shows Thornton getting the food and exchanging some words with Bivines.
Bivines admitted to firing four shots, two of which prosecutors said were fired after Thornton was already on the ground.
“Anyone involved in a situation like that isn’t going to wait around,” Patterson said about Bivines’ behavior that night.
Instead of calling 911 for help, prosecutors said Bivines chose to sit at his girlfriend’s job for six hours after the shooting.
Bivines testified he immediately drove to the Cumberland Mall area where his girlfriend worked and sat there waiting for her shift as a security guard to end. Bivines was expected to pick her up from work and drive them back to their Alpharetta home.
That was 6 a.m.
During those hours waiting, he said he made some phone calls, including one to her, but didn’t tell anyone about the shooting.
And as night turned to day, Bivines said he still hadn’t told anyone.
He wouldn’t talk to anyone about the shooting until he received a call from Atlanta police Detective Andre Lowe asking him to come to police headquarters to tell his side of the story.
That night, Bivines said he searched “uber eats driver” and “uber eats driver news” to see what had been reported about the shooting. When he came across an online article identifying him as a potential suspect, he decided to call a lawyer.
Bivines turned himself in to authorities the Monday after the Saturday shooting.
In court Friday, Jones lamented her fiancé’s killing.
“I lost something very, very special to me. And I will never get that back," Jones said. "Every day, I woke up to somebody who really loved me, and I loved him too. And that was taken away."
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