Moments after a preacher had 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 taking place, 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.
Police believe 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 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 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.
Guider, 19, was fatally shot May 26. Authorities said Ventress, 28, killed Guider in retaliation for burglarizing Ventress’ home.
Law enforcement sources told investigators that Guider stole jewelry, cash and drugs and punched Ventress’ mother,” 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 sent 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.
Dr. Kenneth Lee Samuel, the church’s pastor who founded Victory for the World Church in 1987, lamented the killings Thursday.
“We’ve got to find a better way,” Samuel said. “Our message has got to be peace.”