OPINION: Crime fears deliver a shotgun shocker in Buckhead

Brandon Carver, an Uber Eats driver, says a homeowner in Buckhead threatened him with a shotgun when he tried to deliver food to the wrong house. Photo by Bill Torpy

Credit: Bill Torpy

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Brandon Carver, an Uber Eats driver, says a homeowner in Buckhead threatened him with a shotgun when he tried to deliver food to the wrong house. Photo by Bill Torpy

Credit: Bill Torpy

Here’s a signpost marking the state of where we are today, when fear and outrage are palpable.

It’s a time when an honest mistake could get someone’s guts splattered across a driveway. Just ask Uber Eats delivery driver Brandon Carver, who says he had a shotgun leveled at him by a homeowner last week when he went to the wrong house.

Carver’s harrowing experience occurred while delivering some Five Guys burgers to a resident on a fashionable west Buckhead cul-de-sac of $2 million homes with long driveways near The Westminster Schools. Carver is biracial and the homeowner is white.

Buckhead has seen an increase in shooting incidents and car thefts this year (although still far fewer than in four of the city of Atlanta’s other five police zones). This has caused some residents there to organize behind Buckhead seceding from Atlanta to create a new city.

Carver said his GPS was not properly locating the house — the addresses are confusing — so he backed up the driveway of a home that he deduced to be the right address. It was to be a “no contact” delivery, popular in this era of COVID-19, so he dropped the bag off on the front porch and took a picture of the food to be sent to the person who ordered it.

Next thing, he sees a tall 60-something man with a double-barreled shotgun, perhaps 5 feet away. “Get off my (blanking) property,” he said the man growled. Carver said the man was very insistent and yelling.

Carver said he told the man he was delivering food and pointed to the bag. He said the man pointed the shotgun at the food, then at him, saying, “Take it and get the (blank) out of here.”

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A sign greeting those entering the woodsy and high-end Paces neighborhood in west Buckhead lets drivers know they very well might be watched. Photo by Bill Torpy

A sign greeting those entering the woodsy and high-end Paces neighborhood in west Buckhead lets drivers know they very well might be watched. Photo by Bill Torpy

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A sign greeting those entering the woodsy and high-end Paces neighborhood in west Buckhead lets drivers know they very well might be watched. Photo by Bill Torpy

Carver said he retrieved the bag, then tried to show the man his phone with the address to let him know he really was a deliveryman. But, he said, the homeowner repeated his order to leave and threatened to shoot him if he didn’t. He left, grinding the gears of his 2006 Toyota Corolla as he sped down the driveway.

I called the homeowner, Gregory Kreuer, and within minutes got a call from Noah Pines, a veteran attorney who is defending Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe, who last year fatally shot Rayshard Brooks outside a Wendy’s.

Pines later sent me a statement reading: “An unknown man drove up Mr. Kreuer’s driveway and approached his house. There has been a rash of violence and crime in Mr. Kreuer’s community, which made him suspicious of a stranger driving up his driveway and approaching his house.

“Mr. Kreuer retrieved his shotgun and went outside of his house. Mr. Kreuer asked the man why he was on his property. The man, who did not identify himself as a food delivery driver, answered that he was delivering what Mr. Kreuer ordered. Mr. Kreuer responded that he did not order anything and that the man should leave the property. Mr. Kreuer never pointed the shotgun at the man, nor did he ever threaten the man.”

Carver disagrees with Kreuer on the last two points but it’s fortunate he is still able to do that. If the incident had occurred later in the evening when it was dark, or if Carver had argued or made a sudden movement, there might have been only one side telling the story.

Back in 2014, an elderly Gwinnett County man was let off on one year’s probation and a $500 fine for shooting a young man to death after the driver got lost because of bad GPS info and drove onto the man’s driveway. Phillip Sailors, 70, said he thought Rodrigo Diaz and his friends were criminals. Instead, they were trying to pick up a friend to go ice skating.

Carver is a fledgling sports journalist but delivers for Uber Eats and Door Dash to make ends meet. He’s the father of a 3-year-old boy and lives with his fiancée in southwest Atlanta. He focuses on making deliveries in north Atlanta because he gets better tips.

After the incident, Carver posted what happened on the Paces neighborhood’s Nextdoor site and it was taken down ― three different times. The president of that neighborhood association is Bill White, who is also the front man for the secession effort. Often, while making his argument for a civic “divorce,” he says: “We’re living in a war zone.” And people are taking up arms.

White reached out to Carver after he posted his story online. Carver then Googled White’s name and saw that he is the man leading the Buckhead movement for separation.

“He doesn’t want stories like this coming out because that messes up the narrative of big, bad Atlanta, when it’s your residents pulling guns on delivery guys,” Carver said.

He understands the realities as a Black man, especially one working in a largely affluent community. That’s why he eschews wearing hoodies on the job.

“I’m not a scary-looking man,” he told me. “But I try to make these wealthy homeowners not feel afraid. I wear a Masters’ hat when I’m around. I want them to think, ‘He’s probably a nice guy. He likes golf.’”

Carver went to the police station to fill out a report but said a lieutenant there kept telling him “every reason why nothing would happen.”

“He (the lieutenant) said, ‘He didn’t know who you were.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m a delivery guy.’”

“I told the cop that if he‘d killed me, he would have gotten away with it,” Carver said.

I called a couple of legal eagles to talk about the incident: Don Samuel, a prominent defense attorney who has authored a textbook on Georgia law, and Clint Rucker, a former Fulton County prosecutor who has handled perhaps 150 murder trials. They’ve battled through the decades, with NFL superstar Ray Lewis leaving his 2000 murder trial convicted of a misdemeanor after felony charges were dropped, and Atlanta lawyer Tex McIver leaving his 2018 murder trial convicted of intentionally killing his wife.

Samuel and Rucker now work at the same law firm.

Both were in agreement about the current incident, essentially saying the police lieutenant was trying to shoo away a potential case that few prosecutors would ever try.

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Defense co-counsel Don Samuel (left) and Chief Assistant District Attorney Clint Rucker on April 12, 2018, during the Tex McIver murder trial at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta. (Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com)

Credit: Bob Andres

Defense co-counsel Don Samuel (left) and Chief Assistant District Attorney Clint Rucker on April 12, 2018, during the Tex McIver murder trial at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta. (Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com)

Credit: Bob Andres

Combined ShapeCaption
Defense co-counsel Don Samuel (left) and Chief Assistant District Attorney Clint Rucker on April 12, 2018, during the Tex McIver murder trial at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta. (Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com)

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

The homeowner “was certainly able to brandish” his gun, Rucker said. “He should have eased off once he knew he was a delivery guy. But legally he didn’t have to.”

“It’ll be a stretch to have any charges,” he continued. “Strange car in your driveway. You didn’t order food. It’s a Black guy ― it shouldn’t matter, but it does. It’s unfortunate we’ve gotten to this point of distrust.” (Rucker is Black.)

Hearing the facts of the case, Samuel said, “Morally, it’s outrageous.”

But legally? Here in Georgia? “There’s nothing wrong with making sure you’re not the victim of a robbery,” he said.

“You can’t shoot trespassers,” Samuel said. “But you can tell them you will, and swear at them.”

I met with Carver briefly this week during his lunchtime rounds so I could snap a photo of him. He was leaving a Chick-fil-A on the insanely gentrified Bill Kennedy Way in southeast Atlanta. The shopping area was mobbed with immobile autos. It was to be one of about 20 pickups he does a day to eke out perhaps $120. His son was in the back seat to help save on babysitting costs.

It’s a hard, hectic way to earn a living. And now one that can carry more than just a whiff of danger.

He pointed out that delivery drivers are everywhere bringing shoppers everything from fashion to food, from pet supplies to office supplies. “It’s 2021!” he said.

I asked Rucker about this environment, with so many drivers out there hustling to make deliveries in unfamiliar neighborhoods and an increasingly worried ― and armed — populace.

“They do it at their peril, sad to say,” he said.