I wrote this story in 2005, two years after starting work at the Banner-Herald
HUTCHINS - Two Athens teens engaged a pair of Oglethorpe County store owners in a shootout during a botched robbery Monday afternoon and lost, both paying with their lives.
Bobby Doster and Gloria Turner said they opened fire on the robbers after one of them complained Turner was too slow in handing over money from the cash register. He turned and fired at Doster, missing the 62-year-old owner of Shoat's Grocery and Package Store at the corner of Georgia Highway 77 and Hutchins-Wolfskin Road.
When the gunman's pistol jammed while squeezing the trigger repeatedly, Doster said, he took his own gun out of his overalls and fired as both robbers ran toward the back of the store. The store owner was joined by his common-law wife of 30 years, who said she managed to get off at least two or three shots from the 9 mm handgun kept behind the counter.
The gun-wielding robber was shot and collapsed behind a meat counter at the rear of the store, and his accomplice ran into a bathroom, apparently thinking it was an exit, said Turner, who has owned the store with Doster for eight years.
When the man emerged from the bathroom, he began throwing bottles at Doster as the shop owner advanced on him, hitting Doster in the head with a bottle of soy sauce. The would-be robber then tried to turn over his mortally wounded accomplice, making the store owner think he was going for the gun that was under his friend's body.
"Hit the floor - stay on the floor and don't get up," Doster said he told the man. "He wouldn't get down, so I shot him. The way I see it, it was self-defense because they were intending to kill us. There's no doubt in my mind about that."
When sheriff's deputies arrived, one robber's body lay on top of the other, and attempts to revive them failed. They were pronounced dead at the scene.
Neither robber was identified Tuesday, but after running their fingerprints through a national fingerprint data base for known offenders, they were determined to be Athens residents, one 17 years old and the other 19, according to Oglethorpe County Sheriff Mike Smith.
Authorities are withholding the identities until the teens' next of kin are notified, Smith said.
The sheriff said the Georgia tag on the robber's Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme is "bogus," and that a second tag found inside the car had a Clarke County sticker and was registered to an Athens resident. That resident was not one of the men who was shot, Smith said.
Neither of the store owners would be charged, Smith said, calling the shootings a clear case of self-defense. "That's what all the evidence reveals it to be," Smith said.
Gloria Turner talks Tuesday about how she and her common-law husband Bobby Doster shot and killed two would-be robbers Monday night.
The drama unfolded at about 5:15 p.m., as Turner was at the front of the store, rearranging a display of Pepsi-Cola. She said one man entered with hair covering his face - which later proved to be a wig - prompting her to ask, "How do you see where you're walking?"
The second man then entered and pulled a white stocking cap over his face, showed a gun and announced a robbery, Turner said, pushing her toward the cash register at the checkout counter.
"Y'all not getting the money fast enough," Turner quoted the man as saying, at which time the other man, with the gun, turned and shot at Doster, missing him and shattering a glass beverage case.
After the man's gun jammed, Doster said he opened fire with the .380-caliber handgun he always carries, and Turner began shooting the 9 mm pistol that's usually kept in plain view behind the counter as a deterrent to would-be thieves.
In all, Doster estimated he fired seven shots, and Turner said she got off two or three rounds.
The man who had pulled the gun died of multiple gunshot wounds, Smith said, and the other died from a single gunshot.
Oglethorpe County Sheriff Mike Smith speaks in his office Tuesday about the shootout at Shoat¹s Grocery and Package store.
The grocery store still was in disarray Tuesday morning, with merchandise to be re-shelved and broken glass replaced, but most of the blood had been cleaned from the floor behind the meat counter. Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents retrieved all of the fired bullets, except for one still embedded in the chrome trim on the meat counter.
The owners said they expected to re-open for business this morning.
As the clean-up continued, friends and customers of Doster and Turner came in to check on them.
"Thank God you're all right," one man said.
Steve Archer, who has been a customer of Shoat's the past three years, said the small grocery store is a place where people enjoy shooting the breeze, and that there are several people there at any given time.
Archer said he thinks the robbers cased the store before they entered, waiting until Doster and Turner were alone. Doster said he saw the men's Oldsmobile Cutlass make several passes before they entered.
Archer credited the couple for defending themselves.
"This is their business and how they make a living," he said. "They were going to give those guys the money, but when the one guy started shooting, they had no choice but to defend themselves. I don't blame Mr. Doster one bit for shooting them."