JONESBORO, Ga. — A 48-year-old white man named Larry Foxworth, who confessed to opening fire on two stores in Jonesboro in 2021, trying to murder minorities simply out of hatred against them, is now heading to federal prison for 20 years.
The hate crimes conviction and sentence is some comfort to survivors, who said they want to feel safe in their own communities.
Friday evening, one of the survivors, Lorenzo Lambert, pointed to where Foxworth's blizzard of bullets struck the exterior, concrete-block walls of one of the stores, a Shell gas station and convenience store--the patched-up holes a constant reminder of the hate crime. The shot-up windows have long-since been replaced.
Lambert said he vividly remembers the attack and feels some relief now, learning of Foxworth's prison term.
It was on July 30, 2021 when Foxworth opened fire, in two, back-to-back drive-by shootings--the first one at the Shell, at Tara Boulevard and Mount Zion Road, and the second one at the BP gas station and convenience store a quarter of a mile away, on Mt. Zion. Foxworth later told police, and then the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office, that he had driven to the area knowing there would be Blacks and Arabs there, because he was trying to kill minorities out of hatred for them.
After he confessed to the hate crimes, a federal judge in Atlanta, on Thursday, sentenced him to 20 years in prison.
“That’s a good thing,” Lambert said, “maybe he’ll learn something while he in there. Some people don’t learn anything while they’re in there, they just get eviler.”
The Shell station sits on a busy corner in Jonesboro. A constant flow of customers drives in and out of the parking lot, where there is not just a gas station and a convenience store but also a popular food truck, as well as an emissions inspection station.
Victor Amaya sets up in the parking lot every day with the food truck, selling the menu items he cooks on the spot. Amaya said Friday that the shootings rattled this melting-pot-community of minorities.
And even with the gunman going to prison, he said, everyone is still on edge.
“Well, nobody really knew exactly why they were doing it,” at first, Amaya said, “we all thought it was a targeted thing, but we didn’t know what they were targeting.... Now we know... It will take a while for us to get comfortable again, in the sense of us feeling safe around here.”
The FBI’s latest numbers show hate crimes in Georgia were up 22% in 2021, compared with 2020: 195 in 2020 and 238 in 2021.
“I wouldn’t say I feel safer," because of Foxworth's conviction and sentence, Lambert said, "you just have to be more careful and just keep your head up and keep your eyes on the right things.”
Lambert spoke of his friend who worked in the store, who escaped when the gunman tried to kill her because of her race; Lambert wishes the gunman would think about her while he is prison: "She's doing well. She just had a baby about two weeks ago.”