Police say watermelon sparked fatal argument in Commerce, Ga.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 6:25 AM
Last updated 5:34 PM
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COMMERCE, Ga. - Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents and police detectives kept searching Monday for clues to explain why a 55-year-old Commerce man opened fire on his family Sunday afternoon, killing his grandson and seriously injuring his wife.

Witnesses said Robert L. Clark Jr. shot his wife and grandson at his home, then turned his pistol on officers during a family dispute over a watermelon, Commerce police Chief John Gaissert said.

Officers shot Clark when he came to the door with gun in hand, Gaissert said.

"At this point, we believe that it was a dispute over a watermelon that precipitated the argument that escalated into this deadly situation," Gaissert said.

Clark became enraged after one of his grandsons had either dropped a watermelon or taken a piece of watermelon without asking, he said.

Clark, of 228 Troy St., faces charges of murder, aggravated assault and aggravated assault on a police officer.

He was being held Monday in a secure room at Atlanta Medical Center, where he is being treated for gunshot wounds, Gaissert said.

His wife, Linda Clark, 58, remains in stable condition at Grady Memorial Hospital with a single gunshot wound, he said.

Police responding to a 911 call shortly before 1 p.m. were greeted with a gunshot through the front door of the house, which is off Georgia Highway 15 Alternate, just north of downtown Commerce.

The shot touched off a 20-minute standoff. Officers reached Clark by telephone after they heard a second gunshot, and he allowed his wounded wife and their 5-year-old grandson to leave through the back door, according to the Clarks' neighbors and police.

Clark then opened the front door armed with a pistol. Officers shot him, and inside found the body of 6-year-old Michael Levigne, who had died from a gunshot wound.

GBI agents blocked off Troy Street on Monday as they scoured the home for evidence.

Some neighbors, hitting a deadend of crime scene tape, sat in their cars for a few moments watching investigators map the location of bullet holes in the front of the house before turning around and driving away.

About six shots were fired altogether, said neighbor Kathy Baker, who got on her kitchen floor when she saw police outside of her window with guns drawn.

GBI agents are investigating the police response while also assisting Commerce police with the assault and homicide investigations, said Jim Fullington, special agent in charge of the GBI's Athens office. Two Commerce police officers were placed on paid leave, but there is no indication they did anything wrong, Fullington said.

The Clarks have a history of heated domestic disputes, Gaissert said.

Police have been sent to the house half a dozen times in the past year to answer 911 calls or 911 hang-ups, he said.

Michael, who had just finished kindergarten at Commerce Primary School, and his younger brother were in their maternal grandparents' custody for at least three years, according to police and a neighbor.

Their father, Andrew Levigne, has been arrested repeatedly by Commerce police, and authorities cannot find their mother, Gaissert said.

The Jackson County Department of Family and Children Services is investigating whether the boys should have been left in the care of their grandparents, but there were no red flags to indicate they were being abused or neglected, Gaissert said.

Michael was always at school, and teachers never had any problems dealing with his grandparents, said Kim Savage, the principal at Commerce Primary School.

"Miss Linda is such a sweet person," Savage said. "She always made sure they were at school and that they had everything they needed."

Michael's younger brother is staying at a neighbor's home until DFACS personnel can find a foster home for him.

Comments (45) Add comment
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colcamp1
10
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colcamp1 06/09/09 - 06:29 am
0
0
I can't wait.

I can't wait.

dhd1108
1
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dhd1108 06/09/09 - 06:38 am
0
0
owww, colcamp i bit my

owww, colcamp i bit my tongue... BAHAHAHAH.. wow.. just.. wow.

justus4
99
Points
justus4 06/09/09 - 06:43 am
0
0
We gotta keep that Second
Unpublished

We gotta keep that Second Amendment to protect our families and property. Wonder what this guy thought he was protecting...a piece of fruit.

christian134
1
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christian134 06/09/09 - 07:01 am
0
0
The evil just keeps right on

The evil just keeps right on rolling merrily along...:-(

gnumbgnuts
0
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gnumbgnuts 06/09/09 - 07:06 am
0
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I love me some watermelon...

I love me some watermelon...

andywarhol
0
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andywarhol 06/09/09 - 07:19 am
0
0
justus never has anything to

justus never has anything to say when someone is stabbed to death. Nothing is ever said about knife control.

dashiel
176
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dashiel 06/09/09 - 07:31 am
0
0
Had to use gun. Butcherknife

Had to use gun. Butcherknife dirty. (Could've been worse; could've been a summer turnip.)

hurlyburly11
0
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hurlyburly11 06/09/09 - 07:47 am
0
0
I am not gonna say

I am not gonna say anything...I am not going to to say anything...................................

wise
1
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wise 06/09/09 - 07:55 am
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0
Why would you make jokes

Why would you make jokes about a situation in which a 6 year old child was killed???? I will pray for you guys.

2 B JUST ME
0
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2 B JUST ME 06/09/09 - 08:02 am
0
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Maybe he had his watermelon

Maybe he had his watermelon spiked with his moonshine from them ther' hills and son got into it.

Seashells
0
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Seashells 06/09/09 - 08:36 am
0
0
God Bless that family.

God Bless that family.

aninsider
60
Points
aninsider 06/09/09 - 08:45 am
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0
God Bless us All!!!

God Bless us All!!!

dashiel
176
Points
dashiel 06/09/09 - 08:51 am
0
0
Wise, they've got an opening

Wise, they've got an opening for a grief counselor you might be interested in. Apply at the Appalachian Emergency Room.

justsaying
0
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justsaying 06/09/09 - 09:18 am
0
0
lets see if folks joke about

lets see if folks joke about the people killed in the Aiken wreck too...

mlsimp
0
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mlsimp 06/09/09 - 09:26 am
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This is a tragic incident and

This is a tragic incident and some idiots are posting comments that are utterly grotesque and plain stupid. People, we need to grow up. A child was killed, a women shot and a man is on his way to prison (which he rightfully deserves), another child is on his way to a foster home, and some of you are making watermelon jokes. This is not funny. In my 43 years on earth, I have never seen times like these and trust me, things will get worse before they get better. Instead of joking, try praying.

BCG
0
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BCG 06/09/09 - 09:27 am
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This is not a joke. This is

This is not a joke. This is domestic violence and if it was not a gun involved it would have been a knife, a fist, anything. I will pray for those that have endured and hope the young child finds a loving compassionate family to help heal the wounds.

AAQueen
18
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AAQueen 06/09/09 - 09:48 am
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I can't believe some of these

I can't believe some of these comments. Enough is enough

Rolling Eyes
245
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Rolling Eyes 06/09/09 - 09:53 am
0
0
This family has been torn

This family has been torn apart by the actions of a deranged man. They need prayers, not tasteless jokes.

bone
23
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bone 06/09/09 - 10:03 am
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some people use humor as a

some people use humor as a means of coping with terrible tragedies; others use meditation, booze, religion, or any other spiritual salve. certainly the shooting death of a young child is tragic, but only a pompous jerk would fail to recognize the possibility of conceiving watermelon-based jokes with thinly-veiled racial connotations. taking target practice at news items involving murder isn't something i often do, but those of you who berate others for finding a means to deal with the horrible & grotesque outside of "approved" methods need to lighten up.

Fiat_Lux
15069
Points
Fiat_Lux 06/09/09 - 10:13 am
0
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Are you people at the

Are you people at the Chronicle monitoring these comments at all? People may have a right to their opinions, but the Chronicle is not obligated to publish online and under its banner such sickening trash as is appearing this morning. How about doing a better job of overseeing what's being said here?! Think you're up to it?

APiratesLife4Me
0
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APiratesLife4Me 06/09/09 - 10:35 am
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A WATERMELON of all things.

A WATERMELON of all things. What kind of person does it take to kill over a watermelon?

lurker
1
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lurker 06/09/09 - 10:39 am
0
0
What... no fried chicken ?

What... no fried chicken ?

dashiel
176
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dashiel 06/09/09 - 11:04 am
0
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Maybe it was a COLD

Maybe it was a COLD watermelon.

Nammy3
0
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Nammy3 06/09/09 - 11:11 am
0
0
(•¿•) Ya'll! So very true

(•¿•) Ya'll! So very true bone.......(10:03)

poolmom
46
Points
poolmom 06/09/09 - 11:14 am
0
0
This is no laughing matter! I

This is no laughing matter! I will pray for all of you ignorant people too!

Rolling Eyes
245
Points
Rolling Eyes 06/09/09 - 11:44 am
0
0
I seriously doubt that any of

I seriously doubt that any of the people making jokes about the incident are family members trying to deal with the grief, but rather they are strangers making senseless, crude remarks in the attempt of being humorous. Their attempts are miserable flops and I hope that others will not follow their examples.

Fiat_Lux
15069
Points
Fiat_Lux 06/09/09 - 12:00 pm
0
0
I like your face, Nammy.

I like your face, Nammy.

Nammy3
0
Points
Nammy3 06/09/09 - 12:03 pm
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Aw, shucks. Thanks man. (':

Aw, shucks. Thanks man. (':

cigarman
0
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cigarman 06/09/09 - 12:08 pm
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Watermelons, watermelons,

Watermelons, watermelons, Cadillac cars, We ain't as dumb as you think we is.

teapot
0
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teapot 06/09/09 - 12:17 pm
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Note the number of comments

Note the number of comments Removed for violation of the Comments Policy.

Pray for the family members who lost a loved one. Pray that Justice will prevail. Pray for a country that is rapidly reverting to a non-civilized state.

Thanks Augusta Chronicle for allowing opinions to be expressed. I don't agree with many of them, but I am thankful that we live in a country (at least, for now) that allows Freedom of Speech.

FREEDOM ISN'T FREE but it IS worth fighting for.

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