DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. — It began with a brawl outside a house party. A woman hit a man, and the man refused to strike back, saying he wouldn't hit a girl. Instead, he vowed to attack the next man who walked by, even if he was a random stranger.
That's when Bobby Tillman, 18, happened to approach a group of four partygoers. Authorities said they swiftly stomped, kicked and punched him to death while dozens of bystanders watched.
"He had nothing to do with anything," said Maj. Tommy Wheeler of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. "They just decided he's the one. And they killed him."
The party Saturday night was supposed to be a small gathering of about 10 friends of a high school girl who lived in this middle-class suburb west of Atlanta. It soon grew to an unruly crowd of about 80 after word spread by e-mail and text message.
As the crowd grew, the girl's parents asked the partygoers to leave. But the party just spilled into the street, and neighbors became frustrated by the number of parked cars.
That's when a fight broke out between two girls and two boys, and one of the girls hit a boy, Wheeler said. Then, in a case of twisted chivalry, the boy decided he would not retaliate — but vowed to beat up the next man who passed by. Tillman, who had apparently come for the party but attended a different high school than most of the other young people, unwittingly became the target.
Barbara Stephens, who lives across the street from the house where the party was held, said she saw Tillman fall then saw one man viciously kick him repeatedly. "I've been re-seeing it over and over," she said. "Every time I close my eyes I can see it. They were violent kicks — it was the worst thing I've ever seen."
She said it seemed like dozens of teens were watching.
Her husband, Edd Stephens Jr., said he told his son to call 911 and authorities told him they already had officers en route. He said he watched Tillman stand up and try to walk away and then stumble into a nearby lawn. "We didn't realize he was hurt that bad," he said. "I assumed he was drunk."
Tillman's mother, Monique Rivarde, couldn't contain herself Monday during an initial hearing for the four suspects, crying as soon as she set foot in the courtroom. "He was an angel here on Earth, and I was blessed to be his mother," Rivarde said. "My son did not die in vain. My son is a silent hero. He touched so many lives I didn't know about. Bobby was a ray of sunshine through every dark cloud that anyone had."
The suspects were identified as Quantez Devonta Mallory, 18; Horace Damon Coleman, 19; Emanuel Benjamin Boykins, 18; and Tracen Lamar Franklin, 19. All were charged with murder.