Thursday, August 13, 2009

Georgia: Lithonia schoolteacher exchanges gunfire with carjackers

Dekalb County, Georgia

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution of August 3, 2009
Lithonia schoolteacher exchanges gunfire with carjackers

A DeKalb County schoolteacher carjacked early Sunday scored a measure of revenge against his attackers -- thanks in part to their poor sense of direction.

Derek Harper, 47, had just returned to his Lithonia home around 1:15 a.m. when two unidentified gunmen surprised him from behind, forcing the Evansdale Elementary teacher out of his car and onto the ground, demanding money.

“After they figured out I didn’t have any cash on me they got into my van,” he said. His narrow garage helped Harper sneak away.

“One of them was having trouble getting into the passenger’s side, so while he was doing that I took off,” said Harper, also the assistant track coach at Stephenson High.

As he ran the gunmen started firing, striking Harper once in the arm before speeding off in his van, heading directly toward a dead end on Phillips Place.

Knowing they’d be forced to turn around, Harper ran inside and grabbed his .380 pistol.

“I was waiting for them,” he said. Harper estimates he fired two to three bullets, which might have contributed to the driver crashing the van less than a block away. A small amount of blood was found inside the vehicle.

“It’s badly damaged,” said Harper, who was to have returned to work Monday following the summer break. He’s home recovering instead.

His neighborhood is “fairly quiet,” he said. “Everyone sticks together.”

While some high-profile carjackings have captured headlines in the city of Atlanta, DeKalb Police spokeswoman Mekka Parish said she has not heard of any in her jurisdiction for several months.

Regardless, Harper said he was surprised to end up a victim.

“I drive a minivan,” he said. “It’s nothing special.”

An arrest was made in the case late Monday morning. Parish said the name is being withheld due to the ongoing investigation.

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