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Man charged in Huddle House, Marlow Drive shootings
Willie Joe Moran.jpg
Willie Joe Moran

A Gainesville man allegedly shot a Huddle House employee prone on the floor and shot at another woman who ran away. Less than 30 minutes later, the same suspect is accused of shooting at two other people in a car outside of a Marlow Drive home, according to authorities.

Gainesville Police and the Hall County Sheriff’s Office said Monday that Willie Joe Moran, 24, of Gainesville was charged with both a shooting Jan. 23 at the Huddle House on Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville and a shooting 28 minutes later outside a home on Marlow Drive.

Neither agency has commented on any connection between the two shootings.

“The investigation is very active and ongoing, and we’re just not prepared to publicly release those details at this point in the case,” Sheriff’s Office spokesman Derreck Booth wrote in an email Tuesday, Feb. 5.

In a joint release, the agencies said the serving of a drug search warrant Friday at a home at 28 Dean St. south of EE Butler Parkway in Gainesville led them to Moran.

Inside the Dean Street home, investigators said they found two young boys in deplorable living conditions. Two adults, Moran and Allisha Thomas, 23, of Gainesville, were arrested and charged with second-degree cruelty to children.

Further investigation led law enforcement officials to associate Moran with two shootings.

Huddle House
A police officer stands at the entrance to the Huddle House at 1920 Jesse Jewell Parkway in Gainesville on Wednesday night after an armed robbery.

In the first incident, Michael Benham, 60, was shot late that Wednesday at the Huddle House on Jesse Jewell Parkway.

According to the warrants, Moran alleged chased Shekeria Thompson “with a handgun causing her to fall and break her arm,” an injury that required surgery. Moran also allegedly fired shots at her in the restaurant as well as “firing shots as she fled the restaurant, placing her in fear of receiving immediate serious bodily injury and death.”

Benham was shot in the arm and abdomen as Moran came “around cabinets and (shot) at Benham multiple times while Benham was prone on the floor,” according to the warrants.

The investigator also said Moran stood over Benham’s motionless body and pointed the gun at him, according to the warrants.

Benham was transported to Northeast Georgia Medical Center in critical condition.

A representative from the Huddle House told The Times last week Benham was “doing fine, but I can’t say anything more than that.”

Less than a half hour later, Yanira Smith-Rodriguez, 37, was shot in the face while sitting in a car with Darvis Peterson on Marlow Drive.

The gunshots to Smith-Rodriguez’s face caused a “shattered jaw, (a) mutilated tongue, loss of teeth and (a fractured chin),” according to the warrants.

Authorities said Peterson was not injured.

Smith-Rodriguez remains at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta and is expected to survive.

Authorities have not said how the shootings are related or what connection, if any, there is between victims. In fact, Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Derreck Booth said, “They don’t believe that our victim, Smith-Rodriguez, and the guy that was in a vehicle with her when the shooting occurred — they don’t believe they were intended targets,” Booth said.

Both agencies reiterated that assertion in a joint release Monday night.

In the Huddle House shooting, Moran is charged with attempted murder, two counts of aggravated battery, two counts of aggravated assault, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and wearing a mask to conceal identity.

Moran is also charged with aggravated assault, aggravated battery, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and wearing a mask to conceal identity in the Marlow Drive shooting.

“These cases solidify the importance of interagency cooperation; leveraging resources and relationships to protect our community.” Gainesville Police Chief Jay Parrish said.  
“The Hall County Sheriff’s Office and Gainesville Police Department have worked together without missing a beat,” Sheriff Gerald Couch said.
Moran was booked into the Hall County Jail where he remains without bond.
Both shooting cases remain under investigation.

The children were removed from the Dean Street home and turned over to DFCS, which placed them with family, according to the sheriff's office.

The shootings are two of several that have occurred in Hall County in the past month.

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