On Nov. 2, 2017, Bryan Ramirez helped his little brother off of the bus and cooked dinner for his family.
After hugging and kissing his mother, the 18-year-old man went to work at the Cleveland Highway Texaco, now Exxon. Hours later, he was shot in the back with a rifle.
“He had every reason in the world to live and to live out his dreams, and that was taken away from him,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Kelley Robertson said.
The shooter, Talon Lowery, was sentenced Thursday, Feb. 2, to life in prison with the chance of parole for the 2017 fatal shooting of Ramirez.
Lowery, 24, was convicted Wednesday, Feb. 1, on charges of malice murder and other counts after five days of testimony.
Ramirez was taking a break from his work at the Cleveland Highway Texaco when he was shot in the back by a rifle. Lowery recorded the shooting and posted the video to Snapchat.
Robertson said the responding deputy asked witnesses if Ramirez had any enemies.
“The resounding, universal response was no,” she said. “He was a great kid. Everybody loved him. He was nice to everyone.”
Lowery, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Along with the typical verdicts of guilty and not guilty, the jury was also allowed to consider “not guilty by reason of insanity” and “guilty but mentally ill.”
After four hours of deliberation Wednesday, the jury returned with guilty on all counts including felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
Ramirez’s mother, Maria Flores, said their family unit fell apart a bit after Bryan’s death.
Flores said she did not have hard feelings against Lowery, his family or the defense, appreciating the complexity of the case.
“When I look at him, I just see that he’s not sorry in any way and that he’s not scared of anything,” Flores said through an interpreter.
Superior Court Judge Clint Bearden allowed the possibility of parole for Lowery, which at its earliest would come in 25 years.
Over the course of the trial, the prosecution brought up other videos Lowery made in what they posited were attempts to get attention. These included punching a woman in the Shallowford Road Walmart and shooting a cow.
Danielle Finnemore, the woman assaulted in the store, read her statement to the court, continually calling Lowery a coward.
“I looked to your face to see who had done this and tried to find some kind of answer or explanation, and all I saw in this moment was a completely dead face, (devoid) of any emotion just staring back at me,” Finnemore said. “I had been hit so hard I remember holding the shopping cart, trying to hold myself up as I felt my legs getting weak.”
Finnemore said she was not afraid of the Sautee man and that she would rather be the one assaulted than someone potentially more vulnerable.
“All I could see in your eyes was evil,” Finnemore said. “You did nothing to help me and just stood there filming as long as you could.”
Talon Lowery’s father, Frank Lowery, addressed the court and apologized to the victims.
The family shouldered the blame for what happened by not seeing the signs earlier of Talon’s mental illness.
“We were just trying to encourage anything that helped calm and reassure him, and we ended up enabling and fostering what we now know to be schizophrenia,” Frank Lowery said. “We just didn’t know it.”
Talon’s father said the legal defense was not an attempt to evade prosecution.
“We never tried to get him out of any trouble,” Frank Lowery said. “We’ve tried for five years to help him be understood and get him the help he needs, the treatment he needs. Because he’s not an evil person. He lost his mind.”
His voice faltering at times, Frank Lowery wished that others could see how sorry his son is. The family wanted Talon to be in a place where he can continue to get treatment.
“The way you see him now is the best that he has been in five years,” Frank Lowery said.
Talon Lowery spoke briefly after his father, apologizing to Ramirez’s family and saying he was not in his right mind at the time.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Brickman said Lowery did not have any prior criminal history and implored Bearden to use his discretion in determining the sentence.
Robertson asked for life without parole, calling the case “the most horrifying, terrifying crime” she can recall in her legal career.
“The crime that Talon Lowery committed is almost incomprehensible,” she said. “It’s the kind of thing that strikes horror and fear into every law-abiding citizen of our county.”
After considering the arguments, Bearden said he believed the parole board has the ability to determine if Lowery has shown remorse and remains a threat to society.
“While we argued appropriately for a life without parole sentence in the tragic death of Bryan Ramirez, we accept the carefully considered sentence of the court,” Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh said in a statement. “At least our community will be safe from Talon Lowery for a minimum of 25 more years.”
Bearden also ruled that Lowery would undergo immediate evaluation and treatment for his schizophrenia upon his transfer to the Georgia Department of Corrections.
Lowery will not be allowed to have any weapons, and he was barred from contact with Ramirez’s family.