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Residents knew little about Lula standoff suspect
Roy Turner talks about his Lula neighbor Hubert Stanley Tate, who was killed in a standoff Monday with the Hall County SWAT Team. - photo by Tom Reed

LULA — The outside world knows little about Hubert Stanley Tate, and if he had not died following an hourslong standoff with Hall County sheriff’s deputies Monday, it likely would’ve stayed that way.

Tate, who walked around downtown Lula nearly a block from the elementary school carrying a large-caliber handgun Monday morning, usually kept to himself, and even those who lived closest to the 65-year-old Banks Street resident say they did not know much about him.

They remember Tate as an extremely intelligent man with failing eyesight, an excellent machinist who once worked in the tool and die room at a Gainesville plant — a man who was, at worst, a little paranoid and refused to trim his hedges.

But many of Tate’s neighbors say they do not know much about the man who caused news teams from across the state to swarm their neighborhood, because normally, Tate did not cause much of a stir.

"I was his next-door neighbor, and I didn’t know nothing about him," said neighbor Geneva Armour. "But being his next-door neighbor, I know he didn’t bother nobody."

Roy Turner regularly drove Tate to the grocery store or to run errands. Tate, who lived just across Banks Street from Turner, did not have an automobile, Turner said.

Many neighbors said that Turner probably knew the most about Tate.

"I guess I was his best friend he had around here," Turner said.

Turner remembered Tate as "an old country boy" and a good neighbor. His son, Lula Mayor Milton Turner, used to hang out at Tate’s house as a teenager.

Tate’s father once owned a grocery store and rented a few houses in town, Roy Turner recalled.

But Tate moved out of his parents’ old house and into a camper on the property years ago, Turner said. It was that camper the Hall County SWAT Team surrounded, and in which Tate spent his final hours.

Roy Turner said he could hardly believe the news when he heard that Tate had been involved in an hourslong standoff with Hall County sheriff’s deputies, and had injured one deputy in the course of it.

Roy Turner had never heard Tate talk about guns or shooting anyone, he said.

"Once in a while, he would shoot a little up there, but I didn’t think ... I didn’t believe he would do something like that," Roy Turner said.

Milton Turner remembers that Tate always enjoyed target practice, but never considered Tate’s hobby harmful.

"He always had guns, and would go to firing ranges," Milton Turner said. "As far as waving guns at nobody, I’ve never seen him do that."

Armour insisted that her neighbor was a harmless man, but said sometimes, Tate could have "strange ideas."

Sometimes, Tate would get his gun out and walk around, Lula resident Gene Patterson said.

"He was just paranoid," Patterson explained as he stood on Armour’s porch Monday afternoon. "He always thought the law was trying to harass him, that they was after him or they was watching him."

Patterson said he had always known Tate to be harmless.

"He was a good guy. He wouldn’t bother nobody," Patterson said.

Not everyone thought Tate was such a good guy, however.

"A lot of people didn’t like Stanley, because he was a little strange and he kept to himself," Patterson said. "He was just different."

Armour, whose home sits right in front of the wooded area where Tate lived in a camper, said many people did not like Tate because they did not understand him. Armour and Patterson both spoke of Tate’s "super" intelligence.

"Have you ever seen somebody so intelligent they was dumb? OK, that was Stanley," Armour said. "He was a very smart, educated person."

But Tate, however strange, never scared Armour in the 35 years she was his neighbor.

"I wasn’t scared of Stanley. There wasn’t no reason to be scared of Stanley," she said.

Milton Turner said he never imagined Tate would hurt someone.

"I figured if anything ever happened, Stanley might hurt himself, but he wouldn’t hurt nobody else," Milton Turner said. "I never anticipated this battle coming down today."

Just last week, Turner took Tate to the grocery store. On that day, Tate acted "as normal as he’s always been," Turner said.

"He seemed normal, far as a man’s concerned," Turner said. "I guess anybody could crack up anytime when you know, you got a lot of things on your mind."