Georgia man who shot son for taking too long to pick up food from McDonald’s avoids prison
Willie McKinley Hill dabbed tears with a handkerchief as he sat before a judge awaiting his fate.
Two summers ago, Hill shot and wounded his 17-year-old son during an argument that boiled over after Hill sent his son to McDonald's to get some food.
When the son took more than an hour to return and with cold food, long-running tensions between the two led to gunfire.
Sitting in Bibb County Superior Court on Monday, having just pleaded guilty to the count of aggravated assault in the count, Hill, 51, faced up to four years in prison.
He had admitted firing a bullet - accidentally, Hill claimed - that pierced his son's shoulder and broke the boy's collarbone.
The shooting did not make local news as it took place in the Beaumont Heights subdivision off Williamson Road in southwest Macon on August 24, 2020.
Prosecutor Lauren Brown argued Monday that Hill should go to jail in part for escalating the dispute, rather than "simply withdrawing from the fight." Instead, Brown said, Hill grabbed a .40-caliber handgun.
The gun, she said, went off when Hill pushed his son to essentially "throw" him out of their home.
Brown acknowledged that Hill's son "doesn't want to see his father go to jail."
Hill's attorney, Debra Gomez, told the judge that the clash between father and son was "not as simple" as police initially stated in their reports.
"There's a long history brewing in the family," Gomez said. ... This argument wasn't just about McDonald's."
"Well," Judge Howard Z. Simms chimed in, referring to a 2003 Macon who tossed over $2 he borrowed to buy fast food, "we've been killing people over here for french fries, so surprised nothing more to me."
Next to speak was Hill, who had no criminal record and had worked at a ceiling tile factory in South Macon for two decades.
He told the judge, "My anger got the better of me."
He said he lost his composure he was about to throw his "stubborn" son out of the house.
Hill said when his son showed up with cold food after driving around for more than an hour, the son fled.
"That's when my blood pressure went up," Hill said.
He said their argument "got out of hand".
Willie McKinley Hill, left, in Bibb County Superior Court on Monday, August 8, 2022, where he pleaded guilty to the August 2020 shooting and wounding of his 17-year-old son in a dispute at their home in southwest of Macon to have committed grievous bodily harm.
Hill apologized and said his relationship with his son is "fine" now. In the meantime he has given the boy a truck.
Simms told Hill that parents and teens fight often enough, but don't resort to gunshots.
"It was a total accident," Hill said. "I didn't want to shoot him. I didn't want to shoot him. Man, when that gun went off, that thing gave me such a fright."
The judge told Hill that this was a rare case.
"From what I've seen and heard," Simms said, "you're a fine and upstanding fellow—until you shot your son."
The judge, known for his sometimes scathing lectures and often harsh sentences for the most cold-blooded killers, told Hill that he sometimes makes it his mission to send a message to locals: Violence will not be tolerated here.
But in Hill's case, Simms said, there was no message to send.
"I'm not going to send you to jail, Mr. Hill," the judge said. "I deal with enough tragedy on a daily basis that I don't care to aggravate."
Hill was sentenced to 12 years probation as a first offender. If he violates these conditions, he will likely be sent to prison for four years.
"It's not often that someone exits my courtroom through the same door they came in after shooting someone," Simms told Hill. “They generally go handcuffed. But I have some faith that I won't see you again."
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