By Joe Johnson
A judge recently granted immunity from prosecution to a Madison County man who two years ago fatality shot and killed an Athens man as he sat in his car at a local gas station.
According to Clarke County Superior Court records,
Western Circuit Judge Chief Judge Eric Norris on June 30 dismissed a grand jury indictment that had charged 48-year-old Reginald Lang Kelley of Colbert with malice and felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony for the death of 52-year-old Berry Drive resident Mark Alden Howard.
The fatal shooting occurred Aug. 25, 2020 in broad daylight and with several witnesses present at the Apex Chevron gas station and convenience store on North Avenue, where Athens-Clarke court records indicate Kelley fatally shot Howard.
Kelley, who police said had a longstanding beef with Howard, reportedly placed his gun down in front of the store and remained at the scene for police to arrest him.
Kelley was released from jail in January 2021, upon being granted a $50,000 bond with conditions, court records indicate.
That same month, defense attorney Brett S. Mizerak filed a petition that claimed Kelley was immune from prosecution because he shot Howard in self-defensr.
Norris held a hearing on the petition in which he heard testimony from witnesses and Kelley, and also watched Apex surveillance video footage of the incident, and listened to a recorded police interview of Kelley, which Norris opined were consistent with Kelley’s version of events.
It was revealed at the hearing that there had been bad blood between Howard and Kelly in the year preceding the shooting.
According to court documents, Kelley and Howard had an altercation due to Kelly selling drugs to Howard's son, and Kelley either stabbed or cut Howard’s hand.
The ensuing running feud that involved threats of violence came to its deadly conclusion during a chance meeting at Apex, where Kelley shot Howard two times, court records show.
Norris concluded in his ruling, that the evidence showed that when Howard violently opened the door and advanced on the other man, Kelleywas trapped behind the steering wheel and had no choice but to use his gun in order to protect himself.