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Bond set at $1 million in Waffle House shooting

Walter Geiger Judge Tommy Wilson set bond for alleged Waffle House shooter Robert Lewis Henderson Jr. at $1 million during a hearing Nov. 12 in Butts County superior court. Henderson, 36, is charged with murder and aggravated assault in connection with the shooting death of Nick Bryan, 27, of Milner Halloween night at the Waffle House on Hwy. 36 East near I-75. The tense hearing was held under tight security with about 120 in the audience. Judge Wilson cautioned the crowd to maintain order. ‘If you jump up and start talking I will only hear the first few words because you will be going to jail. This is a very tough situation. I know none of you want to be here but this is our job and we are going to do our job,’ the judge said. Defense attorney Akil Secret argued for bond, noting Henderson had lived in Butts County all his life, worked in the family tree service business where he was needed and was no threat to flee. Secret trotted out four character witnesses for Henderson, including former Jackson High football coach Mike Parris, Carol Lunsford, Henry Smith and Allison Stewart. Several others in the audience stood when asked, noting their support for Henderson. ’We ask you to set a reasonable bond. This man has upstanding character. All these people are willing to put up their property because they know he will come to court,’ Secret said. He also said codefendant Antonio DeMarty Evans, 39, is Henderson’s brother-in-law. Evans tangled with Bryan in the restaurant before Henderson allegedly fired one shot, striking the victim. Evans is charged with tampering with evidence. He allegedly flushed the shell casing from Henderson’s gun down a toilet. Assistant district attorney Greg Futch argued against bond, noting the GBI investigation into the incident is still in the preliminary stages. He said Henderson might well come to court but he had other serious concerns including a previous shooting Henderson was involved in. ’I have concerns about another shooting. He responded to a previous situation with a firearm,’ Futch said, noting a grand jury indicted Henderson on only minor charges stemming from that incident and the victim survived. Pointing out that the entire incident at the Waffle House was on video, Futch said, ‘The fight had ended. Mr. Bryan had been subdued. He was down. There was no reason for (Henderson) to shoot. That is the basis of this case.’ Futch told Judge Wilson he was equally concerned about witness intimidation. ‘The family of the deceased has been intimidated. They have been intimidated on social media. They were intimidated at his funeral,’ Futch said. Judge Wilson explained that those charged with a crime are entitled to a bond if they have not been indicted within 90 days. He said it was unlikely the investigation would be done in time to take the case before a grand jury in that time frame. ‘I am going to set bond,’ the judge said, asking the two attorneys for suggested conditions. They discussed an ankle monitor but Judge Wilson said that might not be applicable in Henderson’s line of work. Bryan’s sister, Crystal Hall, spoke for the family, noting Nick had a six-year-old daughter. ‘This man does not need to be walking free. My family is scared. We have lived here for 35 years without fear. Now we are scared. This bond hearing was scheduled before my brother was even buried,’ she said. Judge Wilson responded by explaining how the bond hearing process works then set bond at $1 million in property or $100,000 in cash. Henderson will be under a curfew/house arrest and can leave only for work, church services, medical appointments and court proceedings. He cannot possess a firearm and must stay away from the Bryan family and the Waffle House. Judge Wilson concluded by telling the audience the trial process would be a long one and that they should remain calm and be peacemakers. ‘This is bigger than y’all. This involves the community of Butts County and the community of Lamar County,’ he admonished.

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