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Lula shooting update: Quiet community shaken by assault

POSTED: May 29, 2013 12:36 a.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

Susan Blackstock, left, and Megan Griffin were working at the Corner Cafe in Lula when the shooting happened at nearby Wayne Wilson Pottery during an armed robbery last week. Blackstock recalls a customer entering the restaurant acting nervous and impatient shortly after the shooting.

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In Lula, a North Hall town of a little less than 3,00 people, acts of violence are often only read about or seen on the news.

But Thursday morning, a violent encounter shook local business owners.

An attacker, described by the Hall County Sheriff’s Office as a white woman with sunglasses and a ball cap, shot and robbed Laurien Marsh, a Gainesville resident and employee at Wayne Wilson Pottery in Lula. She was shot behind the left ear, according to the incident report, and was flown to Grady Memorial Hospital following the attack.

“It’s especially bad to get shot down at work, you know?” owner Wayne Wilson said Tuesday.

Marsh, 59, told Wilson when he visited her at the hospital that she remembered the attack.

“I asked if she remembered it, and she said she did. When she got shot, she was bleeding so bad. She said she didn’t want to lay down and die in the parking lot. She kept fighting. She finally got to that door, and I really thought she was playing. I didn’t know what was going on, and she said ‘Wayne, I’m shot,’” Wilson said. “I was on the phone and I didn’t even hang up I just dropped the phone and ran over.”

Marsh is now at home recovering, Wilson said.

She is relatively new to the area, he said, but has received an outpouring of community support.

“It’s been overwhelming. She only worked part time, and I had no idea she had so many friends out here,” he said.

Wilson shuddered at the thought of a slightly different entry and exit wound. She was hit behind the left ear, according to the incident report.

“It could be a lot worse. She could be somewhere else instead of home right now. Sheriff Couch told me if that bullet had went any other way, just a little bit, the whole outcome would be different,” he said.

Wilson’s daughter added that descriptions of the injury seemed to downplay the extent of the bullet wound.

“They say on the news it just grazed her head. I saw her Sunday — it went in and out of her head. It wasn’t like it “grazed” her head. It went in, and it came out,” she said, with Wayne Wilson nodding in agreement.

After closing the business for the weekend in the aftermath of the shooting, on Tuesday Wayne Wilson reopened the outdoor lawn and pottery business he’s owned for more than 20 years.

Asked if he had a plan to bolster security, he said he’s pondered that question many times.

“What can I do? What can I do?” he repeated. “I’d quit before I build a fence around here and check everybody in and out. I don’t know what I can do. That’s what I lay in bed thinking about. What can I do.”

He mentioned surveillance would have been good for catching the suspect, but as a general principle he said he doesn’t feel it’s necessary for crime prevention.

“I know people in business who got so carried away looking at surveillance that their business just went down the tube. We do trust people,” he said.

Just past a row of trees that separates the businesses off Ga. 365, workers at the Corner Cafe described their own alarm upon hearing the news about their neighbors.

Workers even suspect that the shooter may have stopped by just after committing the crime.

“There was a woman in here, and she was all hyped up about something. She ordered a sausage biscuit and she was very impatient, like she was in a hurry,” employee Susan Blackstock described, noting the woman was wearing a baseball cap.

She and other workers talked to investigators on Friday, Blackstock said.

In the incident report, Marsh told a witness she thought her attacker followed her from Gainesville.

Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks said the investigator is exploring that possibility, but as of Tuesday afternoon, there were no new developments in the investigation.

The investigator is still conducting follow-up, Wilbanks added.

The office has warned that it believes the attacker is armed and dangerous.

Beyond the physical description, Marsh said the woman pulled away in a red SUV with some kind of rack on the roof, according to the incident report.

Wayne Wilson mentioned he may feel more wary being alone at the business in the early morning and evening hours in the robbery’s aftermath.

Some were less shaken than others.

“I’ve never been afraid to get here before 6 a.m. and I’m not afraid now,” Blackstock said, with a note of defiance.

Wayne Wilson relayed that Marsh expressed her concern for the community at large.

“She said, ‘Wayne, one reason I hope they get her is she had no trouble robbing me and bringing that pistol up and shooting me — like it was so simple. I believe she’s done it before, and I believe she’ll do it again,’” Wayne Wilson said.

He said beyond his hope that her attacker is caught, he hopes Marsh will be able to heal both physically and emotionally.

“I hope it doesn’t affect her emotionally. I remember many, many years ago, when I worked for my dad, we had a customer who got robbed, and that customer never came back to the store,” he said. “I hope she doesn’t carry that fear.”


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