In one instant, a Gainesville woman’s sense of security in her home was shattered.
On Oct. 16, 2007, four young men approached the woman’s 18-year-old son on the back stoop of their Summit Street apartment, pointed loaded handguns in his face and ordered him to “give it up.”
The victim ran inside his home and the would-be robbers fled, only to be captured by authorities minutes later. They stole nothing but left a family of five deeply unnerved, according to testimony during a trial this week in Hall County Superior Court.
On Friday, three of the four defendants in the case were convicted of conspiracy to commit armed robbery, with sentencing deferred to a later date. A fourth defendant is already serving an eight-year prison sentence after pleading guilty last year.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Burton said the convictions this week of Decatur’s Cecelia Allen, 26, Quadarius Cooper, 20, and Joseph Harris, 25, were the result of quick responses and solid investigative work by both the Gainesville Police Department and Hall County Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s a great example of the county and city working really well together,” Burton said.
Burton said Gainesville police officer Josh Adams was already in the area and was able to issue a radio lookout for a Chevrolet Impala
almost immediately. Within seven minutes, Hall County Sheriff’s Deputy Corey Gilleland had the car pulled over. A loaded 9 mm handgun was found in the car, and a .380-caliber pistol discarded at the intersection of Industrial Boulevard and Bradford Street was later recovered by police.
One of the gunmen, Monquis Ware, pleaded guilty in April to criminal attempt to commit armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. In a negotiated plea agreement, he was sentenced to 15 years, with the first eight years in prison and the remainder on probation.
The other three defendants took their cases to trial and were tried together this week. None testified.
After deliberating for about eight hours over two days, a Hall County jury acquitted Allen and Harris of criminal attempt to commit armed robbery but found them guilty of the conspiracy charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.
Cooper was convicted of aggravated assault for wielding a gun and faces up to 20 years on that charge. He was also convicted of criminal attempt to commit armed robbery and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
Allen was the getaway car driver and also was accused of planning the robbery.
Burton said there was no evidence to indicate the victim was specifically targeted.
The prosecutor said the victim’s mother raised four boys at the apartments where they had lived since 1994 and never had any problems. The victim is now in college and another son is being recruited for scholarships.
The incident deeply disturbed the mother, Burton said. “She said, ‘In one instant, I no longer felt safe in my home.’”
Judge C. Andrew Fuller has not set a sentencing date. The defendants, who had been free on bond, were taken into custody following the verdict.