By Daniel Silliman
In the woods behind a Stockbridge grocery store, police allege, a 22-year-old armed robbery suspect stuck a gun in a police officer's face and pulled the trigger.
The Clayton County Police Department was called to a drive-through Krystal, at 3562 Ga. Highway 138, at about 1:50 a.m. Thursday. There were reports of an armed robbery in progress.
Officers arrived to find employees locked in a walk-in cooler. The cash register and safe had been emptied, and the suspect was leaving the scene in a red, Pontiac Sunfire.
According to police, the Krystal was closed. Two employees and the manager, 49-year-old Cheryl Alphabet, were cleaning up. Someone went out the back door to dump mop water in the parking lot, and left the door propped open. A man came through the open door wearing a black doo-rag and an orange scarf-mask, the employees told police. The man had a black, 9 mm gun and he demanded money.
The robber had one employee open a white trash bag and ordered that employee to empty the money from the safe into the bag, according to a police report. He allegedly took about $1,000, Capt. Greg Dickens said.
The armed robber put the two employees in the walk-in cooler, they later told police, and he had them put their cell phones into the garbage bag with the money.
When one dropped her cell phone in, the masked man said, "You got a new phone," which is when the woman realized, she said, that the armed robber looked a lot like Marquet Donald, the 22-year-old who had just been fired from the restaurant.
"The suspect was fired last week for an altercation he had gotten into," Officer John Ivey wrote in his report. "The offender was the same size as the suspect, the suspect had an odd-shaped head, which is shaped like a point, and the offender did also. The offender also knew where things were located in the office."
The man left the two employees in the walk-in cooler, taking the Krystal manager into the walk-in freezer and inexplicably shooting her, Maj. Alan Holloway said.
Police found Alphabet, a Conley woman, slumped over the floor of the freezer. She was struggling to breathe, her shirt was covered in blood, according to Officer Ivey. There was a gunshot wound on the left side of her head, and another to her left arm.
Alphabet was flown to Atlanta Medical Center, and on Thursday afternoon, she was considered to be in critical condition, according to Police Chief Jeff Turner.
When police arrived at the Krystal, a little before 2 a.m., Holloway said they saw the armed robbery suspect leave the scene in Alphabet's red Pontiac.
The car went toward the back of the Kroger grocery store, behind the drive-through restaurant, and was pursued by police. The cars collided near a wood line, Dickens said, and Donald allegedly jumped out of the car and ran into the trees.
He left the 9 mm in the car, and dropped the garbage bag of cash in the woods, according to Holloway. He headed toward the lights of a nearby apartment complex, and was stopped by Officer Matthew Whitton, a 6-year veteran of the force.
Whitton pulled his weapon, a .40-caliber Glock handgun, and Donald allegedly tried to take it from him. During the altercation, police said, the gun went off, shooting Whitton in his left wrist, breaking his bone and damaging nerves and ligaments.
According to the police report, the 22-year-old then picked up the officer's gun, put it up to Whitton's head and pulled the trigger.
The gun jammed, according to the police report. It didn't fire, and Whitton, with one good hand, got on his radio and put out a signal 63 -- "officer needs help."
Clayton County Police, Morrow City Police, Henry County and even Spalding County law enforcement officers responded to the scene, with cruisers and helicopters, surrounding the area, getting medical attention for Whitton and Alphabet, and looking for the suspect.
The employees inside the store, and witnesses who saw the masked man escape in the Pontiac, positively identified Donald from a photographic line-up, Turner said.
Detectives contacted the former employee's father, Henry Donald, and told him they had to speak with his son. The man reportedly believed his son didn't do anything wrong, but did bring the 22-year-old to Clayton County Police headquarters at about 11 a.m., Thursday.
Marquet Donald is facing possible charges of armed robbery, aggravated assault, felony obstruction, kidnapping and motor vehicle theft, according to police.
Whitton was reportedly recovering from surgery, Thursday afternoon.