Crime

Macon man who grinned before gunning down pal in midday feud sent to prison for life

The scene in the aftermath of the Feb. 4, 2017, shooting death of Oscar Eugene Freeman Jr. outside a house at 264 Pansy Avenue in Macon’s Unionville neighborhood.
The scene in the aftermath of the Feb. 4, 2017, shooting death of Oscar Eugene Freeman Jr. outside a house at 264 Pansy Avenue in Macon’s Unionville neighborhood. Bibb County Sheriff's Office

The friends and loved ones Oscar Eugene Freeman Jr. left behind the Saturday afternoon two winters ago when he was shot in the face and killed may never know why a man he had been friends with grabbed a pistol and ended Freeman’s life.

Nor will, in all likelihood, the police who arrested him, the prosecutors who brought him to court or the judge who on Tuesday sent him away to prison for life.

All anyone can say for sure is that Freeman and his killer, Robert Dewitt Cummings III, clashed on Feb. 4, 2017.

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Robert Dewitt Cummings

Their deadly encounter came at a street-side gathering on Pansy Avenue, at a dirt front yard a block south of Montpelier Avenue in the heart of inner-city Macon’s Unionville neighborhood.

Witnesses would tell the cops that the pair were cousins, but the best officials can tell is the two were merely longtime acquaintances, and that the men had been drinking.

Prosecutor Jonathan W. Gordon said in court that the day the 47-year-old Freeman was killed, Freeman had gone to visit a friend on Pansy Avenue. Cummings, now 57, showed up later that afternoon and he and Freeman fussed.

They grabbed each other’s shirts and Cummings was heard saying, “No one’s ever gonna put their hands on me again,” before walking up the street to his car.

Sentencing Cummings
The scene in Judge Howard Z. Simms’ courtroom Tuesday as Robert Dewitt Cummings III was sentenced to life in prison. Joe Kovac Jr. jkovac@macon.com

Some thought Cummings was heading home to “sleep it off,” prosecutor Gordon said, but he wasn’t. Cummings walked back to where Freeman was standing at the curb. Someone there noticed Cummings was armed and shouted, “He’s got a gun!”

A bystander among the two dozen or so gathered outside a century-old block house beside a cactus patch at 264 Pansy Ave. recalled that Cummings grinned before squeezing the trigger of his revolver and fatally shot Freeman just below his mouth. Gordon said Cummings, before shooting Freeman, fired a single shot up the street away from everyone.

“The defendant then turned his attention to Oscar (Freeman) and smiled and fired one shot at Oscar,” Gordon said. “Oscar was struck in face. ... He fell from the curb to the ground. The defendant casually and calmly walked off and returned to his car.”

Cummings was jailed that evening — his 19th arrest here since the early 1980s — and has been locked up since.

On Tuesday, Cummings pleaded guilty to murdering Freeman and was sentenced to life with a chance for parole when he is in his late 80s.

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Robert Dewitt Cummings III leaving Judge Howard Z. Simms’ courtroom at the Bibb County Courthouse after he was sentenced to life in prison for murdering Oscar Eugene Freeman Jr. in February 2017. Joe Kovac Jr. jkovac@macon.com

He had been charged with two counts of felony murder in the case for, among other alleged crimes, being a convicted felon with a gun.

Cummings’ criminal past dates to at least 1983 when he was jailed on charges of gambling and frequenting a dive when the police raided a house on Sycamore Street in Pleasant Hill. Over the years, he has faced charges that include a pair of DUIs, forgery, reckless driving, theft, aggravated assault and making terroristic threats.

Cummings said little as he stood before Judge Howard Z. Simms in Bibb County Superior Court. All he said was “God bless my family and his family,” referring to Freeman’s kin.

Earlier, Freeman’s nephew, Anthony Freeman, had addressed the court, telling Cummings, “You took somebody away from us that meant a lot. But I want you to know that I do forgive you, on behalf of me and my family. … I do pray that God has mercy on your soul.”

Gordon, the assistant district attorney, said the crime was “indefensible” and “a clear-cut case of murder.”

“Oscar Freeman didn’t have to die,” Gordon said.

Judge Simms, speaking of Freeman’s senseless death, told Cummings, “There’s not anything that this man could have said to you … that warranted taking his life.”

The judge added: “Most of the time, people standing over there (where you are) who have shot and killed somebody are a lot younger. ... You’re 57 years old. That’s old enough to know better.”

Joe Kovac Jr. covers crime and courts for The Telegraph with an eye for human-interest stories. A Warner Robins native, he joined the paper in 1991 after graduating from the University of Georgia.
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