Defendant shot the victim five times, two while he was on the ground

Atlanta–Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard, Jr., announces the MURDER conviction, by a Fulton County Superior Court Jury, of 36-year-old ROBERT BIVINES.

On February 17, 2018, 30-year-old Ryan Thornton and his fiancé were mourning the death of her father who they cremated earlier that day. The couple decided to order food from Tin Lizzy’s Cantina using the Uber Eats app on Thornton’s phone. Uber Eats delivery driver, Robert Bivines, picked up the order from the restaurant on Piedmont Road in Atlanta and drove it to Thornton’s home on 2870 Pharr Court South Northwest. Bivines parked outside the condominium building and Thornton approached the passenger side of the vehicle to retrieve his food order. Thornton reached inside the car and Bivines handed him the bag. Twice, as Thornton attempted to walk away from Bivines vehicle, he turned around and re-directed his attention to the defendant as it appeared the two were having a conversation. During the last of these exchanges, Bivines fired five shots at Thornton. Two of the bullets struck Thornton in the arm and the other three in the thigh. Bivines shot Thornton twice while he was already down on the ground. Bivines sped away from the scene, but the entire incident, including the shooting, was captured by surveillance cameras.

As Thornton was lying on the ground, bleeding profusely, he managed to call his fiancé, who was still inside the condo, to inform her he had been shot. During that brief phone call, Thornton said,

“Don’t panic, I’ve been shot.”

Thornton’s fiancé ran outside and attempted to render aid while she called 911. EMS arrived shortly after the 911 call, but Thornton died several hours later at Grady Memorial Hospital. Detective A. Lowe, from the Atlanta Police Department, immediately sifted through Thornton’s phone and found the name of the Uber Eats delivery driver.

Detective Lowe sent an emergency request to Uber to retrieve Bivines’ date of birth, email address, phone number, and vehicle type. Uber’s records showed that Bivines drove a 2012 Volkswagen Beetle which was the same vehicle depicted in the surveillance video. Detective Lowe also obtained the surveillance video from the Tin Lizzy’s Cantina which showed Bivines picking up Thornton’s food order 23 minutes prior to the murder.

Bivines, accompanied by his attorney, turned himself into Atlanta Police on February 19, 2018. Thornton and his lawyer both claimed that the defendant acted in self-defense; however, the evidence at trial did not prove that theory. Thornton was also unarmed at the time of his murder. The victim was a graduate of Morehouse College in May 2017 and had just recently begun a new job. Thornton had previously been accepted to West Point, and he was the son of a retired police officer and a high school principal. The defendant previously pleaded guilty in 2010 to a BATTERY charge for punching his brother in the forehead with brass knuckles.

BIVINES was convicted of MURDER, FELONY MURDER, AGGRAVATED ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY WEAPON, and POSSESSION OF A FIREARM DURING COMMISSION OF A FELONY. Bivines was sentenced to LIFE IN PRISON PLUS 5 YEARS.

Retired Judge Jerry W. Baxter, of the Superior Court of Fulton County, presided over the case. Senior Assistant District Attorney Brett Pinion led the prosecution of the case. He was assisted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Lauren Travis, Investigators Adam Gardner and Rasheed Hamilton, and Victim-Witness-Advocate Edrene White of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office. Detective A. Lowe of the Atlanta Police Department was the Lead Investigator in the case.