Case to move forward against alleged Applebee's shooter

by: Manuel Bojorquez Updated:

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga.,None - Police say it started with "talking smack" between fans of rival football teams at a Duluth Applebee's, but that escalated when Donald Ray Ayro left the restaurant, bought a box of ammunition, and came back to open fire in the restaurant's parking lot, a detective said.

The testimony came during a preliminary hearing for Ayro in Gwinnett County Magistrate Court.

"Mr. Ayro appeared to get upset," said Gwinnett Detective J.S. Denny. He said Ayro exchanged words with two men who were rooting for the San Francisco 49ers on Jan. 14 in the restaurant as they watched the game.

"He was observed to take a pill bottle out of his pocket, take two pills ... sat for while, stated 'I'll be back', and he left the bar," Denny said.

The detective said receipts and surveillance video from a nearby store show Ayro did not go far.

"He walked into the Walmart and bought a 100-count Winchester, 115 grain solid 9 millimeter rounds, drove back to the location, sat in the parking lot in [his] truck," Denny testified.

He said Ayro opened fire on Christopher Middleton and Corey Adams as the men left the restaurant.

Middleton remains in critical condition at Gwinnett Medical Center in Lawrenceville. Adams was grazed in the head.

Police said Ayro then fled in an 18-wheeler without a trailer. He was apprehended on Interstate 85 near Jimmy Carter Boulevard shortly after the shooting.

Throughout today's hearing, Ayro scribbled down notes, passed them to his attorney and shook his head during the detective's testimony.


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"Right now, Mr. Ayro is maintaining his innocence," attorney Thomas Wight told Channel 2's Manuel Bojorquez.

Wight said there are holes in the police investigation.

"There's nothing unlawful about buying ammunition, especially not in Georgia ... and right now we have about an hour between his shopping at Walmart and the incident at Applebee's," Wight said.

Police said Ayro admitted to being at the restaurant that night, even when the shooting happened, but denied being the shooter.

A judge ruled there is enough evidence for the case to move forward.


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