4 shot, 2 dead in church parking lot during funeral

STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. — DeKalb County police were called to a funeral Thursday afternoon after a shooting that left two dead and two injured following the service.

It happened in the parking lot of Victory for the World Church on North Hairston Road in Stone Mountain.

News Chopper 2 flew over the scene shortly before 2:30 p.m. as police swarmed the area. Three people were taken into custody. Officers were also interviewing witnesses and surveyed a damaged car. One of the victims' bodies was found in a car.

Investigators told Channel 2 Action News a fight broke out in the parking lot of the church after the funeral ceremony for Ryan Devon Guider, 19, who was killed in a fatal shooting in May, reportedly in retaliation for a home burglary.

DeKalb County Public Safety Director William "Wiz" Miller said witnesses told police the man accused of killing Guider, Marcus D. Ventress, showed up in the church parking lot with a gun. Police said when shots rang out  bullets struck two people. One of those people died at the scene. The other died on their way to the hospital.

Miller said it was a chaotic scene with “people hiding under cars, trying to get away from gunfire.”

“Gunshots went off everywhere, and people were just running and falling, and it was something else,” a witness told Channel 2’s Erica Byfield.

Chris Collier, a friend of Guider's mother, said she hid behind bushes when she heard the shots and then went back inside the church with others and hid inside a closet.

"I was really scared," Collier said. "I thought we were all going to die."

Other witnesses said people were running and falling while seeking cover.


A need to stop the violence

DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis said Rev. Kenneth Lee Samuel had just finished preaching about respect for life when the shooting happened.

“You know, we've really got to come together. The pastor was just telling me that he was just preaching about-- to the young people, because there was a lot of young people at this funeral-- about the value of life and the need to resolve our differences without resorting to violence,” Ellis said. “We’ve really got to take heed and stop this senseless violence. Stop this craziness."

"To have this happen at church is so tragic. My heart goes out to the family. My heart goes out to the people who gathered for this home-going celebration. This cycle of violence has got to end and our young people have got to be convinced there is a better way to settle our differences and disagreements," said Samuel.

DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis reiterated Samuel's message.

"We've been talking about building one community, one DeKalb," Ellis said. "We've really got to take heed and stop this senseless violence, stop this craziness. We've really got to step up our understanding and send a message to our young people how much and how precious we value life, how important it is to work things out and this is not the way."

Samuel said he preaches the example of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and non-violence, and tried to urge the young people sitting in Thursday's funeral to learn from what happened to Guiders to help stop the violence.

"(It's) all about us coming together as a community, finding a way to talk through our differences and not to revert to violence. Too many guns and too many young people who do not know how to handle anger, this is what we're dealing with," Samuel said.

A history of violence

Witnesses told police they saw Ventress show up the funeral Thursday and that’s when the shooting began.

"The indication from some of the witnesses was they did see him [Ventress] here," Miller said. "So we're relying on witness statements that they saw this young man here who was responsible for Mr. Guider's death in the first place."

Investigators said Guider stole jewelry, cash and drugs and punched Ventress' mother during a May 26 break-in, DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Adrion Bell told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Monday.

Ventress, who was considered armed and dangerous, was also wanted for aggravated assault on accusations he shot into an apartment in the 5800 block of Treecrest Parkway, thinking Guider lived there.

Ventress had multiple arrests between 2002 and 2009 in Elkhart County, Ind., about 125 miles southeast of Chicago, for charges that included attempted murder, drug possession, gambling and resisting arrest, according to Indiana jail records. He spent six years in prison on drug charges and was on parole and probation at the time of the DeKalb shooting, Bell said.

Guider also had been in and out of jail since 2010, including arrests for marijuana possession, theft by receiving and criminal attempt.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Guider was buried at Rest Haven Memorial Park on Candler Road in Decatur around 3 p.m., a spokesman for Donald Trimble Mortuary told the AJC.