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Hearing for Decatur murder suspect reveals links to a third shooting, video evidence

Crime and public safety Decatur Metro ATL slideshow

Hearing for Decatur murder suspect reveals links to a third shooting, video evidence

Simmie Rischard Reed. Photo provided by Decatur Police

UPDATE 7.6.2021: In April 2020, the court determined the defendant was incompetent to stand trial and the case was administratively closed. The case could be reopened once the defendant is treated and deemed competent to stand trial. Here is our most recent story about this case:

Simmie Rischard Reed. Photo provided by Decatur Police

This story has been updated. 

During a July 17 probable cause hearing for murder suspect Simmie Reed, detectives with DeKalb County Police and the Decatur Police Department revealed that there was evidence connecting him to two other shootings.

Both of those shootings occurred in traffic. Both involved female victims. In one shooting that occurred in March, police had access to video and a photo of a license plate of the vehicle Reed was allegedly driving. For reasons that aren’t clear, that information did not lead to Reed’s arrest before he allegedly murdered a teenager at a Decatur intersection in June.

Following the March shooting, in April, Reed allegedly shot another woman in the head. She miraculously survived – doctors left the bullet in her, saying it was safer than removing it – and was later able to identify her attacker in a photo lineup after Reed was arrested in connection with the Decatur murder.

The pieces started fitting together when Decatur Police began investigating the murder of Ja-Nae Owens, 17.

The Decatur murder occurred at the intersection of South Candler Street and Midway Road on a Wednesday afternoon, June 20, shortly before 6 p.m. A man described as “a bald black male driving a black Chrysler 200 or 300” allegedly opened fire into a red Nissan, killing Owens. According to the warrants, in addition to killing Owens, Reed allegedly injured the girls’ mother, Jocelyn Gilbert, firing a 9 mm gun at her and striking her in the shoulder. He allegedly fired at Owens’ twin sister, identified as Ja-Maya Owens. She was uninjured.

When Decatur Police released information about the June 20 murder, they received a call from the woman in the incident that happened on March 16. In that case, around 5 p.m. a woman was riding in the passenger side of a vehicle driving on I-285 southbound near the merge with Stone Mountain freeway.

According to the police report, the “suspect’s vehicle pulled up beside hers in stop and go traffic. … The suspect yelled out ‘I know y’all!’”

DeKalb Police Detective T. Redrick testified the victims became scared and started taking pictures of the suspect’s vehicle.

“As they proceeded down 285, he said, ‘I’m gonna give y’all something to take a picture of.’ At that time, he pulled out a firearm, striking a rear passenger door, so they fled to a safe location,” Redrick said.

He testified he did not run any information on the tag to see who the vehicle belonged to. Redrick, who did not take the initial report, said after the hearing he was not sure why that lead wasn’t followed.

“Why didn’t it get worked? I don’t know,” he said.

Attempts to get a comment from the DeKalb County Police Department were unsuccessful.

Decatur Police Investigator Mark Hensel testified that the victim in that March 16 case had taken video of the incident and a photo of the tag. That proved to be a crucial lead. The tag was registered to a vehicle belonging to Reed’s mother. When they looked at her relatives, Reed matched the age and description of the Decatur murder suspect.

Ja-Nae’s twin sister, Ja-Maya, identified Reed in a photo lineup, Hensel said.

DeKalb Police Detective Van Hees also testified about his investigation of a shooting incident that was later connected to Reed.

That shooting occurred on April 20, on Columbia Drive at the entrance to I-20 westbound. The victim was driving a vehicle when a man fired a gun at her, striking her in the left temple. She was still conscious when detective interviewed her at Grady Hospital.

“She stated that her and her friend had been driving in her vehicle. She was driving. She was turning from Columbia Drive onto the on-ramp on I-20 westbound,” Van Hees said. “She stated that a dark colored or black vehicle pulled along the driver side and stated there was a single [male] occupant of that vehicle.”

The suspect matched Reed’s description.

“She said as vehicle pulled up alongside her vehicle, the male fired a single shot at her, striking her in the head,” Van Hees said.

At the time police did not have a tag number or any useful evidence to pursue. That changed when police noticed the similarities between the Decatur murder and the March 16 incident.

“Obviously, the similarities began to set off some alarm bells,” Van Hees said.

After Reed was arrested, the detectives testified that he freely talked to police and admitted shooting at vehicles, but claimed he was defending himself.

Decatur Police Detective Hensel said Gilbert, Ja-Nae and Ja-Maya’s mother, had told him that on June 20 they were driving down South Candler when they were waved around by another vehicle. When they pulled ahead of the vehicle the driver, later identified as Reed, began taking pictures of them.

“So, she pulled her vehicle over at which time he pulled his vehicle up next to them and fired into the vehicle,” Hensel said.

Hensel said during an interview with investigators, Reed claimed that the women had pulled a gun on him at a red light and he was acting in self-defense.

Craig Lee, an uncle of the victims, told Decaturish his nieces weren’t armed and said he didn’t believe they had threatened Reed.

“As far as my nieces owning a gun, hell no,” Lee said. “What would’ve been their reason for pointing a gun at him? What would’ve been the basis of it? That’s absolutely crazy.”

Lee was shocked to learn that police had video evidence linking Reed to a previous incident.

“It kind of tells me that the detective work or the policing on that situation wasn’t high priority,” he said. “That’s an unfortunate thing to learn, that he was not apprehended at that point.”

Reed has killed before. In 1988 Reed was convicted of shooting a man, Joseph Lamar Carter, with a shotgun while the man was inside his car. That killing occurred in Mobile, Ala. Carter’s sister, Anna, said the shooting stemmed from a dispute over a woman. The jury in Mobile found him guilty of manslaughter and he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was accused of a rape unrelated to Carter’s killing. The case never went forward because the victim did not want to go through the stress of a trial, court records show.

Reed’s attorney, Daryl Queen, told Decaturish, “Right now we have concerns about Mr. Reed having some mental illness. We’re investigating that.”