by Robert A. Waters
Melinda Herman, hiding in an upstairs crawlspace with her nine-year-old twins, waited for the inevitable. A stranger, armed with a crowbar, had broken through three doors to get into her home. Making his way up two flights of stairs, he stopped along the way to check each room. Melinda heard the intruder as he finally reached the door behind which the family had concealed themselves.
That Friday, January 4, had started out like most days on Henderson Ridge Drive in Loganville, Georgia. Melinda’s husband, Donnie, left for work while she cared for the children and worked a stay-at-home job in her office. A normal family, just minding their own business. Then came the loud knocks on the front door, the continual manic ringing of the doorbell, and finally, the sound of doors being broken open.
Melinda called Donnie. He told her to hide, and she and the children went to the bedroom adjoining her office. Locking the door, she entered a bathroom, then ushered the children into the cramped crawlspace. Along the way, she opened a safe and grabbed her husband’s six-shot .38-caliber revolver.
With his wife still on the line, Donnie called 911. As he spoke to the dispatcher, he coached Melinda, reminding her that she had been trained for this moment. “If he opens that door, you shoot him, you understand?” Donnie said. “Just remember everything that I showed you, everything that I taught you, all right?" He later explained that he’d taken his wife to a gun range for target practice and instruction on defending herself with a firearm.
In the crawlspace, the mother and two children waited. Time seemed to go on forever. Then Melinda saw the closet door open.
Point-blank, she opened fire.
Six shots later, the once-violent intruder lay on the floor, crying, begging her not to shoot him again. Melinda and the children stepped over him, and fled to a neighbor’s house.
Police arrived minutes later.
Down the street, they found a car that had run off the road and into a tree. Nearby, a man moaned that he was dying. Rushed to the hospital, Paul Ali Slater, a long-time criminal, lay in critical condition. Five rounds had hit him in the face and neck. Unable to breathe on his own, Slater was placed on a ventilator.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that “the Long Island native, who now lives in Gwinnett County, was released from the Gwinnett jail in late August after serving six months for simple battery and three counts of probation violation. Slater has six other arrests in Gwinnett dating back to 2008, according to jail records.”
In an interview with CNN, Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman perhaps said it best: “Had it not turned out the way that it did, I would possibly be working a triple homicide, not having a clue as to who it is we're looking for.”