CONYERS — A customer who fired back at the suspect who killed two people in a Ga. Highway 20 liquor store Sunday afternoon is being hailed as a hero.
Rockdale County Sheriff Eric Levett said at a press conference Monday that Todd C. Scott, 44, a resident of Covington, very likely prevented other customers in the store from losing their lives.
Levett said store video from Magnet Bottle Shop showed that the suspect, Jeffrey Scott Pitts, 36, came in the store Sunday afternoon firing a handgun.
“I believe that if Mr. Scott did not return fire at the suspect then more of those customers would have hit by a gun,” said Levett. “It didn’t appear that he cared who he shot or where he was shooting until someone was shooting back at him. So in my opinion he saved other lives in that store.”
Pitts killed a store clerk and a customer before fleeing to his home in the 3500 block of Ebenezer Road where police said he wounded both his mother and father. When officers arrived at the house, Pitts reportedly fired at them and was shot and killed.
Authorities identified the two victims from the liquor store on Monday as Conyers resident Mun Hyuk Cha, 44, the store clerk, and Covington resident Otonicar Jimquez Aikens, 39, a customer at the store. Aikens died at the scene; Cha was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta where he later died.
At Monday’s press conference at RCSO headquarters, Levett outlined the sequence of events Sunday that sparked the shooting rampage. Pitts, a frequent customer, reportedly went to the package store sometime around noon where he became involved in an argument, possibly over money owed to the store. At some point the store clerk took Pitts’ ID and refused to return it until Pitts reportedly went out to his car, retrieved a handgun, returned inside the store and pointed it at the clerks. He then took his license and left the store.
The incident was reported to the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office and deputies began to look for Pitts. At one point, Levett said a deputy went to the suspect’s house on Ebenezer Road, but Pitts was not there.
Several hours later, shortly before 5 p.m., Pitts returned to the store and immediately began firing. There were apparently two clerks and four customers in the store at the time.
Pitts then returned home where he wounded his 64-year-old mother and 63-year-old father. Levett said 911 received a “hysterical” call from a woman, apparently Pitts’ mother, and four deputies and one Conyers Police Department officer responded.
Authorities said multiple rounds of gunfire were exchanged between Pitts and Deputy Brad Lockridge before Pitts was fatally wounded. Lockridge was not injured in the incident. Pitts was reportedly armed with a .45-caliber handgun and an AR-15 with a 100-round capacity double drum magazine. Pitts was wearing a ballistics vest and had a weight plate inside the vest.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Sherry Lang said an autopsy was performed on Pitts at the GBI crime lab on Monday. She said the medical examiner had not released the number of times Pitts was wounded, which wound proved fatal, nor whether he died of a self-inflicted gunshot.
Lang also said that the GBI had video footage of the shootout with authorities and she expected it to be released sometime Tuesday.
Levett also had praise for the way that Deputy Lockridge handled the incident.
“He did a great job,” said Levett. “He assessed the scene even en route, and as he arrived he began giving orders to the other officers on scene. He armed himself with what he needed to arm himself with, and he approached the scene in a safe manner, taking cover…. I believe that’s the reason he’s home today, and all the other deputies.”
Levett said Lockridge and two other deputies on the scene were armed with assault rifles.
Authorities said it was unknown if Pitts had any history of mental illness. According to the RCSO, he was convicted of DUI and misdemeanor marijuana possession in Newton County in 2010 and was ordered to pay a fine, perform community service and serve 12 months on probation. Levett said he knew of no other instances when deputies had been called to Pitts’ residence.
Authorities also said more information would become available once all the deputies involved, the surviving store clerk, and Pitts’ parents have been interviewed.
Rockdale County Commission Chairman Richard Oden joined Levett and law enforcement officers at the press conference to offer condolences to the families affected by the shootings and to reassure residents.
“Rockdale County still is a safe and respected community, regardless of this isolated incident,” said Oden. “Although we are deeply shocked and saddened by this violent act and the loss of life, we are going to join together, hold each other up, and move forward as best we can.”