When a violent carjacking took place at the Publix on Highway 5 on March 22, some locals took it as a sign of Douglas County’s decline.
Douglasville police are still looking for the suspect, who has been identified as 21-year-old Donta Everett Thomas. He stands accused of carjacking and assaulting an 83-year-old victim in the store’s parking lot.
“Time to move,” read one comment on the Douglas County Sentinel Facebook page under a link to the story. “When you can't go to the grocery store and return your cart in broad daylight, it is a sad time indeed.”
“Douglasville used to be a safe place to live,” read another, and a third commenter weighed in with simply, “Thuglasville.”
But crime statistics don’t gel with the narrative some are carrying on social media. According to the Douglasville Police Department (DPD), the carjacking last month was just the ninth in all of Douglas County over the last five years.
“It’s a very safe shopping area,” said Capt. Brad Stafford.
Of the nine carjackings that have taken place locally since 2012, four were on Thornton Road, near the border with Cobb and Fulton counties. The recent carjacking was also the only violent crime to take place at the Cosby Station strip mall containing the Publix over the last 12 months.
While the suspect remains at large, he is not a Douglasville resident and, according to police, stole the car in order to try and travel to another county.
“It was a crime of convenience,” said Stafford. “He was looking to head somewhere else.”
Police said the victim was taking groceries from the store to his car. When he returned his shopping cart and then returned to his car, Thomas popped up from the back seat and demanded the man hand over his keys. Thomas reportedly told the victim he would kill him if he didn’t.
The incident occurred shortly before 6:30 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon. DPD officers and K-9 units were seen later visibly searching the entire parking lot of the shopping center. At least one other officer was seen going to car-to-car looking in windows in the lot.
The victim’s car was later recovered behind the Stewarts Mill Crossing shopping center next to Jiffy Lube on Highway 5.
Thomas was identified the next day as the suspect based on evidence recovered at the scene and from witnesses, police said.
The elderly man escaped with minor injuries.