MARTA police patrol the gates at the West Lake MARTA station Friday, April 14, 2017, a day after a shooting on a train left a man death and three people injured.
Photo: JOHN SPINK / AJC
Photo: JOHN SPINK / AJC

31 riders were on MARTA train during alleged murder, cop says

Silently, without eye contact, a man stood on a busy MARTA train earlier this month and opened fire on an apparent rival, before standing over him and firing a final shot into his neck.

The moment is captured clearly on security camera footage and supported by riders who witnessed the April 13 act and subsequent mass panic, according to a detective who testified Friday.

Chauncey Lee Daniels, 37, was in court for a preliminary hearing on his charges, which include malice murder in the death of Zachariah Hunnicutt, 38. He’s also accused of injuring three people as the train pulled into the West Lake station, including two who were with Hunnicutt and a woman who didn’t know anyone involved.

MARTA police detective Lorenzo Whitestone said 31 people were on the train during the shooting; 10 were in the line of fire.

He didn’t offer a theory on why Hunnicutt was shot. He said the victim knew Daniels and had worked with him, reportedly at a temp agency. 

Hunnicutt’s girlfriend, who was among the shot, told the investigator she wasn’t sure why Daniels would want to hurt Hunnicutt.

But she recognized him as the man in the Braves cap who suddenly pulled a 9-millimeter Smith and Wesson and started to fire at 4:26 p.m.

Hunnicutt got up to run after the first bullet hit him. The other victims fled with him, heading to the back of the train.

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Daniels turned and fired into the group, Whitestone said.

Hunnicutt fell. In a moment, the shooter was standing over him.

“He walks over to Mr. Hunnicutt and shoots him in the neck,” Whitestone said.

The gun jammed and wouldn’t fire the next shot.

But Hunnicutt had already been shot six times, including twice in the back, Whitestone said.

When the train stopped, Daniels allegedly tried to flee but fell as he was running up the escalator. By then, riders had pointed him out to police as the shooter and officers were chasing him.

Two MARTA cops drew their guns as he brushed off the fall and tried to leave the station. One grabbed him and took him to the ground, causing the murder weapon to fall on the ground from his waistband, Whitestone said.

After hearing the detective’s testimony, Judge Karen Smith Woodson found probable cause for the state to proceed with its case against Daniels. 

She also declined to grant him bond out of jail.

The shooting came as MARTA is experiencing increased ridership following the I-85 bridge collapse. It also followed four other murder cases worked this fiscal year by MARTA police, an unusual amount of such cases considering the system went the four previous years with none.

Still, MARTA touts a 27 percent overall decrease in crime and notes that arrests were quickly made in each homicide.

In Daniels’ case, it took about a minute and a half for the arrest after riders pointed him out to police.

Two Marta bus operators, Arluther Deadwyler and Coy Dumas Jr., have each driven over 1 million miles over their careers. The AJC takes a look into what it takes to drive over 1 million miles. (David Barnes/AJC)

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