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DeKalb District attorney announces conviction in fatal armed robbery that may have been a hate crime

Crime and public safety DeKalb County Trending

DeKalb District attorney announces conviction in fatal armed robbery that may have been a hate crime

Joshua Ellis. Photo provided by DeKalb County Police.

This story has been updated. 

DeKalb County, GA — When Ronald Peters was shot and killed during a robbery in 2019, anti-gay bias allegedly played a role in the crime.

According to the police report, the suspects used homophobic language during the murder. According to the report, Peters was harassed over his sexuality a week before the crime.

However, that crime occurred before Georgia’s hate crimes law was on the books. When the DeKalb County District Attorney on Tuesday announced the conviction of one of the men responsible, the possible hate motive was not included in the announcement.

A spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office said, “When this crime occurred, there were reports that one of the suspects used a homophobic slur.  That detail and the case as a whole were fully investigated. Georgia’s hate crimes law, which provides for sentencing enhancements, was passed and signed into law in 2020, a year after the murder.  Therefore, that is not an element that could be considered in this case.”

Decaturish asked the spokesperson whether the investigation substantiated the use of a homophobic slur during the crime. This story will be updated when the spokesperson responds.

A jury rendered its verdict against one of the defendants in the case on Sept. 25.

“Jurors returned guilty verdicts Monday against Joshua Cortez Ellis, 25, on charges of Malice Murder, three counts of Felony Murder, Armed Robbery, Aggravated Assault, Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony and Possession of a Firearm by a First Offender Probationer stemming from an incident on June 4, 2019,” the District Attorney’s Office announced.

Peters, who was 28, was walking near his home on Orchard Circle in greater Decatur at 8:30 a.m. when two men got out of a maroon Chevy pickup truck and robbed him at gunpoint, the District Attorney’s Office said.

“Witnesses told police the men demanded Peters give them his backpack and when he refused, one of them, later identified as Defendant Ellis, shot Peters,” the District Attorney’s Office said. “Peters fell to the ground.  Defendant Ellis grabbed the backpack and then fired at Peters again.  Witnesses reported hearing another shot as the men drove away. “

Ellis shot Peters in the neck, arm and chest. He died at Atlanta Medical Center.

“Detectives found Peters’ phone and saw multiple alerts that his debit card had been used after the shooting, including at a gas station on Fairington Road in Lithonia,” the District Attorney’s Office said. “Investigators obtained surveillance footage from the gas station of Defendant Ellis as he made a purchase with the debit card and then got into a maroon truck. Next, the video showed the truck travel across the street to a Walmart.  Footage from the Walmart showed Defendant Ellis, along with his Co-Defendants Tyreese Johnson, 23, and Shaleeya Moore, 23, exit the truck and go inside the store.”

Investigators found the truck with a possible bullet hole in one of the doors. The truck had been stolen during a carjacking in Clayton County a day before the murder.

“During police interviews, Defendant Ellis admitted to being in the truck and to using Peters’ debit card at the gas station,” the District Attorney’s Office said. “Defendant Johnson told investigators that they were only going to rob Peters, but said Ellis shot Peters before Johnson made it around the truck.  Defendant Moore testified that both Ellis and Johnson got out of the truck with guns and masks.  She also admitted to driving the truck away from the scene after the shooting.”

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