There was no altercation, Branch House Tavern manager Ryan Battles said.
No commotion inside the popular Flowery Branch hangout, and neither of the men seemed exceedingly intoxicated. As far as staff could tell, they didn’t know each other and didn’t even interact.
At closing time — 2 a.m. — the doors were locked and patrons, many parked across the street at a gas station, ushered out.
By 2:12 a.m. Saturday, shots were fired and 911 was called. A 26-year-old Buford man, Donald Lee Battle Jr., was killed.
“There was no sign of trouble,” Battles said. “Apparently things went south when they left the building.”
The alleged shooter, Battles said, was among those that spoke with dispatchers. His identity has not been released.
A possible motive remained unclear, at least publicly.
Authorities believe Battle, who had recently moved to the area from Minnesota, was shot to death after leaving the tavern. The actual scene was the parking lot of a nearby Chevron gas station, located at the intersection of McEver and Jim Crow roads.
Flowery Branch Mayor Mike Miller said that “quite a number of people” were interviewed by police, but declined to release further information. He said he didn’t have information to confirm that a suspect had been detained.
“All of the relevant parties have been identified,” Miller told the Daily Post, “and at this point the investigation is still ongoing.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was called to help process the scene, but the Flowery Branch Police Department is handling the rest of the case, Miller said. At least through Saturday afternoon, both agencies remained on the scene.
Battles said the victim and the alleged shooter were both at the tavern with friends or significant others. Though they skewed a little younger than the establishment’s typically middle-aged crowd, the manager said the two men “didn’t stick out like a sore thumb or anything” and didn’t draw attention to themselves.
Battles said he and other tavern employees have been cooperating with police.
“I can’t necessarily comment on what we saw,” he said, “but I know that they didn’t really engage at all with any kind of conversation inside the restaurant, and they were not overly intoxicated.”
Branch House Tavern is far from a rough-and-tumble drinking hole, Battles stressed, saying that dinner hours are filled with families and softball teams before live music goes on around 9:30 p.m. A 29-year resident of Flowery Branch, he called Saturday morning’s events “shocking.”
“It’s very troubling and upsetting and tragic,” Battles said. “It’s very sad to imagine being this young man’s family.”