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Fatal ambush

Atmore man, 23, shot to death in own yard

An APD investigator examines the Watkins car while another photographs the bullet holes in its glass.

News Staff Writer

An Atmore man was fatally shot Tuesday (September 24) by a gunman who was apparently waiting for him when he arrived home from work in the predawn hours.
Atmore Police Chief Chuck Brooks confirmed through a press release that Roderick “Thumper” Watkins, 23, of a Jimbos Road address was shot several times with a handgun around 2:30 a.m. as he was getting out of his car on the short city street, located just off Alabama 21, opposite Escambia County Middle School and Spudd’s convenience store.
Debra Brooks, the victim’s mother, said she was awakened by neighborhood dogs shortly after midnight but found nothing out of the ordinary in the area when she checked. She went back to sleep, she said, only to be awakened about two hours later by several gunshots.
“A little after midnight, the dogs were all cutting up,” she recalled. “I didn’t see anything, so I must have dozed off for a couple of hours. Then I heard seven to ten shots.”
She said she saw her son’s Nissan Altima outside and ran to it.
“He had just got off work and he left his car running,” she said. “He was going to go inside and get changed to go to the gym. The passenger side door was open, and Thumper was on the ground by the car.”
The police chief said investigators found “numerous bullet shell casings” around the vehicle. He added that “a lone gunman approached Watkins Jr.’s car and began shooting” and that a witness saw a person she recognized running from the scene.
Debra Brooks said the alleged gunman, a male, “was hiding in the bushes close to the car” when she got to her son’s side and tried to talk with him. The person immediately ran off as she approached, she said.
“He (Roderick) tried to talk to me,” she said. “He was breathing but couldn’t get any words out. The man who shot him was in the bushes and ran off when he saw me coming.”
APD investigators called for an Alabama Department of Corrections K-9 tracking team to assist in the search for the person who ran away from the shooting site, but the dogs soon lost the scent and police “determined the subject running may have left the area in a vehicle.”
Debra Brooks said her only child had been trying to clean up his life after a rough stretch. Although police did not provide a possible motive for the murder, she said she thought she knew the source of the conflict.
“He was working every day, trying to be productive,” she said. “And this was all over a girl.”
A crowd of neighbors and friends stood a few yards from the homicide site, trying to comfort the woman.
“This is Atmore, Alabama,” an unidentified man said. “This kind of thing didn’t used to happen here; now it’s all the time.”
According to the APD press release, police “have a person of interest and are actively seeking his whereabouts.”