The two people killed in a shooting at a DeKalb County funeral were gunmen who fired at one another during an argument, police said Friday.
The dead were identified as Carlos Henderson Jr., 19, and Delmetrius Heard, 28.
Also injured in the shooting were a 12-year-old girl and another man. Their injuries are not life-threatening, police said.
Police said Henderson and Heard were attending the funeral for 19-year-old homicide victim Ryan Devon Guider Thursday at Victory for the World Church near Stone Mountain. As 500 mourners left the North Hairston Road church's sanctuary, the shooting victims argued and went to their vehicles to retrieve guns.
"We were ready to go to the burial, and I heard, ‘pow pow pow pow,' " mourner Regina Sharp told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I thank God I made it out alive."
In the aftermath of the shooting Thursday, DeKalb Public Safety Director William Miller had said police believed the man accused of killing Guider, Marcus D. Ventress, attended the funeral and ended up in the church's parking lot with a gun, fired several shots into the air and other people returned fire.
Friday, police backed away from that, saying there is no indication Ventress was there. He is still sought in the May 27 killing of Guider.
Witnesses said as many as eight shots were fired at the funeral. Many said they had no idea what was happening, but heard the gunshots and feared for their lives. One woman's sandals were broken from running; another woman held her high heels, which she said she took off when she heard the shots so she could move faster.
After the shooting, Guider, from Decatur, was interred at Rest Haven Memorial Park on Candler Road around 3 p.m., a spokesman for Donald Trimble Mortuary told the AJC. But many of those who had to planned to attend the burial were forced to stay at the church, where police blocked off parking lots and the front entrance to investigate.
For at least two hours after the shootings, some of those who attended the funeral recounted the string of events that sent people running in different directions and screaming.
Chris Collier, a friend of Guider's mother, said she and her daughter hid behind bushes when she heard the shots and then went back inside the church with others and hid inside a closet.
"Oh God, they're shooting," Collier recounted to the AJC. "I was really scared. I thought we were all going to die."
Collier said as she stood in a dark closet inside the church, she again heard commotion as someone apparently re-entered the church with a weapon.
Then, nearly as soon as chaos began, the sounds of gunfire ended. One person died in the church parking lot, Miller said. Another person died en route the hospital, he said.
The church's pastor, Kenneth L. Samuel, who founded the church in 1987, told the AJC he heard the commotion but didn't immediately know what had happened. But the irony between what he had just said during the eulogy and the acts the followed was almost surreal, he said.
"This is exactly what I was preaching," Samuel said. "There are too many guns. There are too many young people who do not know how to handle anger. We've got to find a better way. Our message has got to be peace."
DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis echoed the pastor's words, speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon.
"We've really got to step up our understanding and send a message to our young people how much and how precious we value life, how important it is to work things out and this is not the way," Ellis said.
Authorities said Ventress, 28, shot Guider as retaliation. Law enforcement sources told investigators that Guider “burglarized the home of Ventress, stealing jewelry, cash and drugs and punching Ventress’ mother,” Sgt. Adrion Bell with the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office said. Police said Ventress also is accused of shooting into an apartment in the 5800 block of Treecrest Parkway, thinking Guider lived there.
Ventress's criminal history includes multiple arrests between 2002 and 2009 in Elkhart County, Ind., about 125 miles southeast of Chicago, for charges that included attempted murder, drug possession, gambling and resisting arrest, according to Indiana jail records.
The man spent six years in prison on drug charges and was on parole and probation at the time of the DeKalb shooting, Bell said.
Guider also had been in and out of jail since 2010, including arrests for marijuana possession, theft by receiving and criminal attempt.
- Staff members Christopher Seward and Hyosub Shin contributed to this report.
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