Updated: Jun 21, 2021
By Joe Johnson
A man arrested for shooting a McDonald’s employee in Jackson County Thursday night acted in self-defense, according to his wife.
Sylvia Watts claimed that, following an argument at the drive-thru window at the restaurant located at 4875 U.S. Highway 129 North in Jefferson, employees surrounded Devonte Watt’s car and threatened to get a gun.
“When someone says they’re getting their gun and you can’t retreat from the situation because you are surrounded, the Georgia ‘stand your ground law’ gives you the right to self-defense," she said.
The woman’s story differs from what authorities said happened.
According to Jefferson police, during an argument concerning a problem with his food order, Devonte Watts allegedly spit at the employee through the pick-up window, and the employee confronted Watts outside, where police said the argument continued, and as the customer drove away, Watts fired one shot towards the employee.
“The bullet actually hit a second employee who had gone outside with the first employee to try to defuse the situation,” according to police.
That employee was transported to the hospital for treatment of a non-life-threatening injury, police said.
Watts was charged with aggravated assault, aggravated battery, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
However, Sylvia Watts told Classic City News that it was the employee who spit on her husband during an argument and five to six employees left the restaurant to confront him.
The couple live together in Gainesville and both work in Jackson County.
“The other employees got involved by calling him a nigger and other racial slurs and threats about them getting their gun as they was walking out to confront Devonte,” she said.
“He didn’t aim to shoot anyone, he was trying to get away from them,” Sylvia said. “Too many people are dead because they thought the other person was bluffing and didn’t do anything to protect themselves. These days when someone say they got a gun you gotta take that serious.”
Jefferson Police Chief Joe Wirthman said Monday that evidence supporting the arrest of Devonte Watts included surveillance camera video footage and witness interviews.
“We had probable cause to makes an arrest,” he said. “Now it’s in the hands of the DA, so they can take their claims to the DA’s office.
Sylvia Watts said she hoped the aggravated assault charges can be dismissed at an immunity hearing, where the stand-your-ground defense would be explored.
Even though the gun Devonte used was registered to his wife, the firearms charges will likely stand because he was not allowed to possess a gun due to a record of felony convictions. According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, he was released from prison in May 2020, after serving three years for conviction of committing a robbery in DeKalb County.
“Devonte Watts is not a monster,” his wife said. “Everyone made mistakes in their life before. Everyone. And if you believe in the Lord you wouldn’t be so quick to judge. They look at a Black man with a background from his past and hold that against him. That’s wrong cause people can change.”
Sylvia said she has known Devonte for about a year, and they married in January.
“He has not been in any trouble at all,” she said. “He is a hard-working man,” she said. “That night we both had to work, so you see we didn’t have time for trouble, but things happen.”
Apart from the criminal case, Sylvia Watts said a lawsuit against McDonald's and possibly others was in the works because a manager should have intervened and stopped the argument before it escalated.