The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Moments after a preacher delivered a message on the value of life, four people were shot, two of them fatally, at a DeKalb County funeral Thursday, according to police.
Authorities said three people were taken into custody.
The shootings occurred at Victory for the World Church on North Hairston Road near Stone Mountain, where a 1 p.m. funeral for homicide victim Ryan Devon Guider of Decatur was nearing its end, according to DeKalb County police.
"We were ready to go to the burial, and I heard pow pow pow pow," mourner Regina Sharp told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I thank God I made it out alive."
Investigators believe there is a connection between the shootings at the funeral and Guider’s slaying on May 26.
DeKalb Public Safety Director William Miller, relying on witnesses' accounts, said the man accused of killing Guider, Marcus D. Ventress, showed up in the church's parking lot with a gun, fired several shots into the air and other people in the parking lot may have shot and killed him.
"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."
Miller said two people involved in an altercation were shot. "One was killed on the scene, the other was transported to a local area hospital by our emergency rescue staff [and] that person died in route to the hospital," he said.
The scene at the church was chaotic. Police, fire and other emergency vehicles flooded the area, and North Hairston Road in front of the church was blocked in both directions.
Witnesses said the church was packed for Guider’s funeral. Toward the end of the service, people were filing out of the church for the burial when a large fight broke out outside the church, witnesses said. The melee involved more than a dozen people, witnesss said.
Some witnesses said up to eight shots were fired.
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 in seeking cover. Miller said people were hiding under cars, trying to get away from the gunfire.
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.
Authorities believe Ventress, 28, killed 19-year-old Guider in retaliation for burglarizing Ventress' home and attacking his mother.
Law enforcement sources told investigators that Guider stole jewelry, cash and drugs and punched Ventress' mother during the break-in, DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Adrion Bell said 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.
A message on valuing life
Dr. Kenneth Lee Samuel, pastor of Victory for the World Church, which he founded in 1987, lamented the killings Thursday.
"We've got to find a better way," Samuel said. "Our message has got to be peace."
Samuel said he had just gone into the church to change to go to Guider’s interment when he “vaguely” heard a commotion. “I didn’t know what was happening, but then I was informed that people were shooting and that a person had indeed been shot.”
The minister said valuing life was "exactly what I was preaching" at the funeral. "There are too many guns. There are too many young people who do not know how to handle anger," Samuel said.
"We've really got to take heed and stop this senseless violence, stop this craziness," DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis said in a statement." 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."
AJC staff photographer Hysob Shin contributed to this report.