AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Mass shootings slow in Georgia, until they don't


UPDATED, April 26, 11:44 a.m.

After a particularly violent 2015, Georgia had been mostly untouched by mass shootings this year – until Friday.

Authorities in Columbia County say 51-year-old Wayne Hawes shot five people to death in the Appling community Friday evening before taking his own life.

It was just the third mass shooting in Georgia this year – and the first that resulted in fatalities.

That’s according to shootingtracker.com, a nationwide database of shootings that wound or kill four or more people. The site’s methodology has drawn criticism from gun-rights advocates, who point out that the FBI defines “mass murder” as a case involving at least four fatalities, not including the shooter. Many researchers don’t count domestic-violence shootings or those that take place during another crime, such as a robbery.

Others, though, say a mass shooting is a mass shooting, regardless of how many people die or the perpetrator’s motive.

However you classify it, Hawes’ rampage left a trail of death at three residences, according to police and media reports. At the first house, he killed three people, including his mother-in-law. He killed two more at another home. Then he drove to his own house, tried to set it afire, and finally killed himself with a single shot to the head.

The victims’ ages ranged from 31 to 87.

Only two other mass shootings have been reported in Georgia so far this year. The first, on March 6, left four people wounded in Roswell. Five people were shot in Atlanta on March 15.

By this time last year, 15 people had died and 24 had been wounded in eight mass shootings in Georgia.

In all, 20 mass shootings occurred across the state last year, killing 27 people and wounding 71.

Although the pace of mass shootings has slowed this year, authorities have kept busy investigating gun-related homicides that are not noted in the national database.

Over the weekend, for example, two men were shot to death outside a Burger King on Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway in northwest Atlanta. Another man was found dead on Grand Avenue in southwest Atlanta, two gunshot wounds in his head. Last Wednesday, someone shot and killed two men inside a recording studio on Metropolitan Parkway.

And on Monday, police found a married couple and their son shot to death in a murder-suicide inside their home in Henry County.

Authorities say their investigation suggests James Bryant, 37, shot and killed his wife, Melissa, 39, and their 6-year-old, Conner, before killing himself.


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