Potential crime victims turning the tables, with sometimes fatal consequences

Yuhanna Williams was still clutching his knife when a Rockdale County sheriff's deputy, reporting for work as a security guard at Ingles, came upon the Covington man's body Saturday night in the grocery store's parking lot. Williams' shooter hovered nearby.

"This guy tried to rob me and I shot him," Ryan Moore, identified by several media outlets as a 23-year-old Georgia Tech student, told Deputy Dexter Harris, as reported in the investigator's incident report.

Emergency crews were dispatched but arrived too late to save Williams, 30, who was shot in the head. His accomplice escaped on foot and remains at large.

Williams had been jailed in Rockdale for numerous offenses, including simple battery and selling marijuana near a public school.

Moore, who faces no charges, has emerged as a hero to many. Commenters on the Rockdale News website were largely supportive

"Another 2nd amendment save," wrote one. Opined another, "The enemy hath no mercy on its opponent. So take no mercy on him. The victim is brave and did exactly as he should. We are now one less criminal/enemy combatant in this world thanks to him."

And those sentiments aren't isolated to rural gun owners. When a Virginia-Highland man was shot dead outside his apartment complex in late November, his neighbor, Derek Baugh, said residents were prepared to defend themselves.

"Within 30 seconds there was a guy on the curb with a shotgun on his hip, but it was too late," said Baugh, recalling the night Charles Boyer was killed. Baugh, who owns a 12-gauge shotgun, told the AJC he was considering buying another for his wife.

At least six other similar incidents have been reported around the metro area this year, and in each case, the gun owner was not charged.

  • One week before the Ingles shooting, a clerk at a Cobb County liquor store exchanged gunfire with two would-be robbers, killing one.
  • A Stone Mountain barber victimized by a string of burglaries shot one of two would-be thieves, holding the robber at gunpoint until police arrived.
  • The owner of West End Tattoo parlor in Atlanta faced off against three armed intruders, killing one and causing the others to flee.
  • A DeKalb homeowner shot two burglars, killing one.
  • Three intruders were confronted by a Decatur homeowner who heard them kicking in his back door. All three young men, one of whom had been shot in the thigh, were captured by police.
  • With his two children asleep in their rooms, an Ellenwood father confronted three armed men, killing one and causing the others to flee on foot.

"More and more people are exercising their right to defend their property," said National Rifle Association president Carolyn Meadows, who lives in East Cobb. "I don't think any civilized person is going to jump up and down because someone is killed, but if there's a choice between the law-abiding and the criminal, I'm glad the law-abiding are the ones left standing."

"It's certainly appropriate to defend yourself if your life is in danger," said Alice Johnson, executive director of Georgians for Gun Safety. "I really have to wonder why anyone would want to kill another human being over the money in the cash register."

And these face-offs don't always end with the would-be victim standing, she said.

"We do not reduce gun violence by increasing the number of guns," Johnson told the AJC.

Not everyone is so certain. Atlantans Together Against Crime founder Kyle Keyser, robbed at gunpoint two Decembers ago outside a North Avenue pizzeria, said his immediate reaction was, "I want to get a gun." He eventually decided against it but said ATAC has no official position. "We're not here to say it's right or wrong," Keyser said.

Cops are likewise torn. While they support the right of legal gun owners to protect their lives and property, too many civilians don't know how to use firearms properly, Sandy Springs police spokesman Steve Rose said.

"A lot of people who own guns are afraid of them," he told the AJC.

When confronted, as Moore was Saturday night, Rose advises would-be victims to "shoot until the threat is down."

But be aware of the consequences.

"It's a sad situation when someone's life is taken away," Rose said. "For the shooter, even if they're justified, it's not something they're going to celebrate. It's something most would consider very tragic."