Woman killed in UGA shooting has Augusta ties

George Zinkhan

One of the three people killed in a shooting at an Athens theater was a former Martinez resident.


Wayne Kitchens, a childhood friend of Ms. Bruce, said he was shocked to hear about the death of his friend. Mr. Kitchens, who lives in Evans, said they became friends when she was at a student at Westside High School and he was at The Academy of Richmond County.

“You just can’t believe it,” he said. “She was such a nice person.”

According to a friend of the family, Ms. Bruce was a former Warren Baptist Church member. A man who answered an emergency number at Warren Baptist said pastors there were aware of the situation and were with her family.

A nationwide search has been put out for University of Georgia marketing professor George Zinkhan, who witnesses say shot and killed three people at a theater group gathering early this afternoon.

Current and former members of Town and Gown Players, a long-standing community theater group off Prince Avenue, had gathered for an annual reunion, when Mr. Zinkhan started arguing with someone, left briefly and returned with two handguns, according to Athens-Clarke police Capt. Clarence Holeman.

He fired several shots, Capt. Holeman said, killing three. Three others were injured.

The three people killed were Ms. Bruce,who was Mr. Zinkhan's wife, and two men, Tom Tanner and Ben Teague.

Calling their work an “active manhunt,” Capt. Holeman said police were searching anywhere they thought Mr. Zinkan might go, including his home in Bogart, Bruce’s downtown office and Mr. Zinkhan’s office in Brooks Hall on UGA’s North Campus.

“If you’ve got somebody who’s already shot three people with two handguns, I call that a high level of threat to anyone he comes into contact with,” Capt. Holeman said. He advised people not to approach Mr. Zinkhan, but call 911 if they spot him.

Police said Mr. Zinkhan, 56, was last seen driving a red 2005 Jeep Liberty with a Georgia tag number AIX 1376.

UGA sent text messages to more than 25,000 students and employees warning them that Mr. Zinkhan is on the loose.

Authorities said Mr.Zinkhan left the couple's children in the car while the shooting happened. A neighbor of Mr. Zinkhan's says the professor dropped the children off with him next door and left after saying there was an emergency.

They were not harmed and are reportedly safe tonight.

As police spoke to witnesses early this afternoon, neighbors and visitors in town for Athens’ Twilight Criterium stopped to ask what was happening.

Kerry Gronewald, who lives across Grady Avenue from the theater, said her roommate heard the shots around noon, but thought actors were rehearsing for tonight’s play, she said.

“Obviously, I am nervous, though. I look out my bedroom window and there were bodies laying there,” Ms. Gronewald said.

Colleagues and friends of Mr. Zinkhan and the victims said they were dumbfounded by the shooting.

“It’s very shocking,” said Bobby Freidmann, a UGA marketing professor.

Mr. Zinkhan appeared to specifically target Mr. Tanner and Mr. Teague in addition to his wife, said Rick Bedell, an actor with the Town and Gown Players, but he did not know why.

“It was deliberate,” Mr. Bedell said. “He shot these three people specifically and walked out.

“They were good people, and I have no idea why (Zinkhan) went nuts,” he said.

Capt. Holeman raised the possibility that the shooting could be a crime of passion.

“I can only speculate,” he said. “Some people are saying it could be a love triangle or something like that.”

Mr. Zinkhan has taught marketing and distribution at UGA’s Terry College of Business since 1994. Ms. Bruce was a criminal defense lawyer but was also well-known in the city's theatre community.

Her interest in theater was clear at Westside High, where she was involved in the theater department, Mr. Kitchens said. He said he wished he’d gotten a chance to see her perform with the Town and Gown players.

“I didn’t get a chance to see her since it was in Athens,” Mr. Kitchens said.

Mr. Teague was a translator who moved to Athens in 1977 and called himself “a confirmed theater bum” who had been involved with the Town and Gown Players for 17 years, according to his Web site.

Mr. Tanner was a research analyst at the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government. He was playing the role of Doc Watson in the Town and Gown Players’ production of “Sherlock Holmes.”

Staff writers Stephanie Toone and Mike Wynn contributed to this article.



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