By Daniel Silliman
A single .40-caliber shell casing was lying on the floor of the Chevy Impala. Blood covered the inside of the window on the passenger's side and Corey Robbins was in the seat, face-down, dead. He had been shot in the head.
The original 911 call told police the incident was a drive-by shooting. On Dec. 20, when Clayton County police officers and Detective Scott Eskew arrived at the intersection of McFerrin Place and Hayes Drive, they saw the Impala crashed into a chain link fence. They heard Robbins' girlfriend, Shante Buckley asking if her "baby" was OK.
Buckley was in a blue, Pontiac Bonneville, and said she was at a drug store down the street when Robbins called her on her cell phone and said something was wrong. Residents, though, said they saw a blue Bonneville racing down the street after the Impala and saw gunfire exchanged between the two cars, a couple of blocks south of Southern Regional Medical Center.
Police found three bullet holes in the side of the Bonneville. They called them "unexplained." They found the Impala did not belong to Robbins. It was registered to a man named Eric Lindell Bivins. Police found four 9 mm shell casings in the street, at the scene of the shooting. They found a .40-caliber gun on the ground outside the Impala, but the bullets in the gun did not match the brand found on the floor of the car.
Looking at the evidence, Eskew said there were three guns: A .40 for the driver, a .40 for the dead passenger, and a 9 mm out on the street.
Police found seven grams of marijuana on the floor of the Impala, and the evidence clicked. It added up. This was not a drive-by. It was not random. This was a drug deal turned shoot-out.
Eskew, the department's senior homicide detective, said he went to the CVS store at 22 Upper Riverdale Road, two blocks from where the Impala crashed into a fence. He reviewed the security cameras at the 24-hour, drive-through pharmacy, and he found himself watching a drug deal go down, and go bad.
The cameras show the parking lot and two vehicles, a gold-colored Chevy and a blue Pontiac, pull in and park on the west end of the lot, at little before 10:30 p.m., that Thursday. Robbins, wearing a black coat, is shown getting out of the Bonneville, walking to the Impala, and getting in on the passenger side.
Almost immediately, Eskew said, something went wrong. On the camera he could see Robbins get into the car and then it happened, something happened. The security cameras do not capture sound, so you cannot hear a gunshot. Some witnesses said they might have heard the gun go off, but the Impala peeled out of the parking lot and headed down Hayes Drive. The car was followed by the Bonneville.
Eskew said it happened like this: Robbins went to buy seven grams of marijuana, but he brought his gun. Getting into the car, he pulled the .40-caliber and tried to rip off Bivins.
But Bivins had a gun, too.
Bivins, apparently in self defense, shot Robbins once in the face, Eskew said. Seeing two more people in the Bonneville, Bivins sped out of the lot, heading into the neighborhood to the south.
Bivins thought this was a pre-planned rip-off, according to the detective. He thought he might die. He thought the people in the Bonneville would kill him ,and he sped away. They chased him.
The two cars hurdled down Hayes in a straight line, Eskew said. Buckley was driving the Pontiac and Jeremiah Few, in the back seat, pulled out a 9 mm.
The cars came to a T-intersection, where Hayes dead-ends into McFerrin, and Bivins got out, without stopping the car, and began firing back at the Bonneville. The Impala -- abandoned by the driver and carrying only the dead man with his .40-caliber gun, a shell casing and a bag of marijuana rolling around on the floor -- slowly crossed over the curb and plowed into a fence.
Buckley stopped the Bonneville and Few fired his semiautomatic from behind a car door, firing four times and ejecting four 9 mm casings onto the pavement.
Bivins, running, turned and fired three times at the Bonneville, striking the side of the blue car three times.
Eskew said he returned to the scene, in an attempt to confirm his understanding of the homicide evidence. He went looking for the shell casings Bivins should have left there, he said. He found them, and they matched the brand marking on the bullet casing found on the floor of Bivins abandoned car.
The evidence added up, and Eskew said the homicide looked justified, looked like a case of self defense. He talked to Buckley and Few, talked to Robbin's brother and others, and their accounts matched what he thought he already knew.
Today, a little more than a month after Robbins was found dead, the case is basically closed. Eskew said the only loose end is Bivins.
While the detective has talked to the man's family extensively, and though he does not plan to charge him with murder, Bivins is still at large. Two warrants were taken out against Bivins regarding the Dec. 20 incident, one on a charge of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and one on a weapons charge.
But the man has not been found. Bivins passed word, through his family, he would turn himself in after the holidays, but he has not followed through, according to Eskew.
He needs to get a lawyer, the detective said, turn himself in, and tell his side of the story. It looks like justified homicide, but he added, the last loose end needs to be tied.
As soon as Eskew talks to the Bivins, the homicide case will be closed.