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Two Athens residents killed in alleged robbery attempt, two others arrested

Julio Rivera
Alphonzo Gonzalez

By Joe Johnson

Four Athens residents this week allegedly participated in an armed robbery in Winder in which two of them were killed.

The deceased suspects were identified by the Barrow County Sheriff's Office as Jose Barrera and Erika Contreras, both 19.

The two surviving suspects were arrested in Athens on charges of criminal attempt to commit armed robbery and aggravated assault with the intent to rob. They were identified by the sheriff's office as Julio Rivera, 20, and Alphonzo Gonzalez, 19, both of Athens.

According to Barrow County Sheriff Jud Smith, the shootings appeared to have been in self-defense by a 20-year-old Winder man who the suspects tried to rob early Tuesday morning in the Beech Creek Estates subdivision off state Highway 82.

The shooter was being represented by an attorney who was cooperating with investigators, according to the sheriff.

“Preliminarily, this appears to be a case of self-defense,” Smith said.

Deputies reportedly responded at about 1:26 a.m. Tuesday to a residence on Beech Creek Circle on a report of suspicious people wearing masks who were standing around the home.

When deputies arrived, they were advised by a communications officer that a female had been shot dead in a vehicle down the road from their location. She was later identified as Contreras.

Contreras was found in the driver’s seat of a BMW, with a shattered rear window and with the woman suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest, according to a sheriff’s incident report.

The incident report noted the car was next to a construction dumpster on someone’s front yard, with the woman’s foot on the car’s gas pedal and the vehicle’s transmission in neutral, according to the report.

Personnel from the sheriff's Criminal Investigations Division arrived, and the scene was turned over to them, and a short time later, the Winder Police Department found Barrera dead in a ditch on the side of Beech Creek Circle, according to the incident report.

When interviewed, the robbery victim reportedly told deputies that he had been drivings with Contreras to get something to eat when she stated she was having car trouble and turned the vehicle around, stopping it at the “T intersection” where Beech Creek Circle runs back into itself.

At that point, the man said he heard footstep and upon turning to his right he “saw a gun in his face, so he shot the male,” according to the report.

Barrera’s body was found in a ditch next to the intersection.

The report made no mention of the alleged robbery victim making any statements about shooting Contreras.

After giving a statement about shooting Barrera, the man “stated that he could not write anymore because he was shaking and did not know what else to say,” according to the report.

The report noted that there was a small amount of marijuana between the passenger seat and door frame.

Rivera and Gonzalez on Friday were being held without bail at the Barrow County Detention Center.

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