by Robert A. Waters
As killings go, the shooting at Papa John’s in Columbia, Tennessee seemed more senseless than most. Two robbers got the money from a compliant clerk, and headed toward the door. That’s when Darious Fitzpatrick, 17, allegedly turned back and shot the clerk in the chest.
WTVF News in Nashville reported that “two masked men entered the Papa John’s on Shady Brook Street just before 10 p.m. Monday. One of the men was carrying a gun. The pair demanded that 22-year-old Gordon Schaffer, who was one of the store’s managers, open the cash register and they took cash from the drawer. At the time of the robbery, a co-worker was on the phone with Schaffer and heard it all happen. That person called police.”
The Columbia Police Department issued a statement about the murder. Schaffer was “compliant and offered no resistance,” it read. Sgt. Michael Kash told reporters that “Mr. [Schaffer] did everything he was supposed to do. He complied [with] everything, he gave them the money they asked for. The reason we’re saying [this murder is] senseless is because it didn’t have to happen. He was compliant and they still shot him.”
Detectives quickly focused their investigation on convicted robber Darious Fitzpatrick. While being interrogated, he allegedly admitted the murder. When asked why he shot the clerk, Fitzpatrick replied, “He wouldn’t give me more money or my money.”
Then, in a chilling confession, the cold-eyed shooter said, “I shot him to kill him.”
Fitzpatrick’s Facebook page shows a young man on the wrong track. At 17, he seemed obsessed with smoking dope and watching online brawls that turned fatal. Unlike his victim, Fitzpatrick had no job and seemed to have no interest in working.
After his arrest, he was charged with first-degree murder, felony murder, aggravated robbery, two counts of aggravated robbery, being a felon in possession of a firearm, possession of a stolen firearm, and three counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a felony. He was also charged with committing two previous unsolved robberies.
A year earlier, Fitzpatrick had been found guilty of yet another armed robbery, but was charged as a juvenile and released early.
On the other hand, Gordon “Gordo” Schaffer worked for his living, and had a dream of moving west to Washington. He’d been saving his money to relocate when his dream was cut short. Police and Schaffer’s family told reporters that Fitzpatrick should have been in prison instead of on the streets trolling for victims.
A statement released by Schaffer’s family read, in part, “[Gordon] was a free spirit that truly absorbed every aspect of life and spent his time trying to enjoy everything life had to offer. He was also one of the most loving and generous people to walk this Earth.”
Because Fitzpatrick is only 17, the death penalty cannot be sought by prosecutors. If convicted, the most he can be sentenced to is life in prison.
It just doesn’t seem to be enough.