Was Robert Bivines justified in killing Ryan Thornton? That’s the question jurors must answer when deliberations begin Friday morning.
Bivines, 36, a former Uber Eats driver, has long claimed he shot and killed Thornton, 30, in self-defense after he was threatened while delivering food to Thornton’s Buckhead condominium on the night of Feb. 17.
Bivines is on trial in Fulton County Superior Court this week for the February shooting death of Thornton.
Bivines testified Thursday that Thornton threatened to “(expletive) him up” because he was angry the driver would not bring his food upstairs.
Bivines said Thorton approached him in an aggressive manner and motioned with is hand in his pocket as if he had a gun, so Bivines grabbed his gun, fired four shots at Thornton then drove away, he said.
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“I felt harmed,” Bivines said. “I thought he was going to shoot me.”
But prosecutors disputed Bivine’s story noting that no weapon was found on Thornton and he didn’t make a move like he had one, they said.
And if Bivines were truly afraid for his life, they said, he had other options, including calling police or 911 for help.
“Words alone are not sufficient to justify killing someone,” Fulton County Senior Assistant District Attorney Lauren Travis said in court Thursday during closing arguments in the case.
Attorney Jackie Patterson said his client panicked.
Surveillance video from that night shows Thorton getting the food and exchanging some words with Bivines.
Bivines admitted to firing four shots, two of which Fulton County prosecutors said were fired after Thornton was already on the ground. He then drove off.
“Anyone involved in a situation like that isn’t going to wait around,” Patterson said about Bivines’ action that night.
Instead of calling the police or 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 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 would turn himself in to authorities the Monday after the Saturday shooting.
During testimony this week, Thornton’s fiancee, who was at the condo with him, described heaing the shots that killed him, Channel 2 Action News reporterd. After the shooting, Thornton called his fiancee.
“I hear Ryan’s voice crackling, saying ‘Don’t panic. I’ve been shot,’ and that’s the last time I ever spoke to him,” Jones testified.
During closing arguments, Travis said Bivines aggressively baited Thornton in to coming back to the car and intentionally fired shots at him. Travis criticized Bivines for not remembering details from that night and claimed his conscious kicked in when he was worried about being caught.
Patterson insisted his client stood his ground, but acknowledged the pain of Thornton’s family.
“There are no winners in these kinds of cases,” he said.
Judge Jerry Baxter dismissed jurors home for the day after reading them their instructions. They will begin deliberations at 9:30 a.m.
Bivines faces charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.