Deaf rapper killed in hit-and-run
by Lindsay Field
April 11, 2013 12:00 AM | 21564 views | 13 13 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Joseph "Deaf Joe" Gathambyri
Joseph "Deaf Joe" Gathambyri
For the third time this year and the second time in two weeks, a bicyclist has been hit by a motorist and killed in Cobb.

Joseph Gathambyri, 25, was hit Wednesday just before 5 a.m. while heading to work at Burger King off South Marietta Parkway.

Less than 8 hours later, Marietta Police arrested 27-year-old Damon Thomas Lautch and charged him with hit and run, DUI and first-degree vehicular homicide.

Marietta Officer Michael Gardner said Gathambyri was riding his bike on South Marietta Parkway westbound near Aviation Road when he was struck and killed from behind by a driver who then fled the scene.

“We were able to use some of the debris that came off the vehicle and track down what type of vehicle it was,5” Gardner said.

They narrowed it down to a black, early-1990s model Toyota truck, and with the help of an anonymous tip, Lautch was arrested. He remains in the Cobb County Jail.

Burger King coworker Virginia Hammond said Gathambyri has worked at the Marietta fast-food restaurant for about four years.

“He did everything around here,” she said. “He was my right-hand man. … This is all just so shocking.”

She knew Wednesday morning that something was wrong when he wasn’t at work before her. They have worked the morning shift together for the last two years.

“He usually gets here around 5:10 a.m. and will wait at Dunkin’ Donuts until I get in,” Hammond said.

After dropping Hammond off at work, her boyfriend drove down to the scene of the accident and discovered Gathambyri had been killed.

“When he called and said it was Joe, I just broke down,” she said.

Marisa Williams, who also worked with Gathambyri, was heartbroken by his death and described the Kenyan native as a loving person with a big heart.

“All the people here were close to him,” she said with tear-filled eyes. “He always gave everybody hugs.”

Hammond said another thing that made Gathambyri so special was that he was deaf.

“He would point at you before talking to you, so you would know who he wanted to communicate with,” she said.

Gathambyri would read people’s lips and write down whatever he needed help with and texted on his phone to talk to family and friends.

“It was just amazing!” Hammond said.

His coworkers also said Gathambyri was an aspiring rap artist, who spent his spare time creating his own rap videos and writing his own music. He rapped through sign language and performed under the name “Deaf Joe.”

“He was into his music very hard,” Williams said. “He could hear the base of the music … and he took pictures with a lot of famous people in rap.”

Third bicycle fatality in Cobb this year

On March 31, Lawrence Joseph Young of Marietta was hit around 7:45 p.m. on Powder Springs Street at Natchez Trace, and he died at WellStar Kennestone Hospital from injuries.

The 55-year-old was riding his bike southbound on Powder Springs Street when he was struck by what witnesses described as a black Cadillac Escalade or similar type luxury SUV exiting the parking lot of NCG Cinemas.

The driver of the identified SUV was brought in for questioning a few days later but police haven’t made any arrests or filed charges.

In early February, a Woodstock man was killed after he reportedly lost control of his bike and pulled into oncoming traffic on Bells Ferry Road in north Cobb.

Timothy Austin, 42, was traveling southbound on the sidewalk of Bells Ferry near the Cobb and Cherokee County line just north of Wentworth Drive when he pulled into a local business, lost control of the bicycle and pulled into the northbound lanes.

He was then struck by a silver 2006 Nissan Xterra driven by Amanda Neill, 29, of Lilburn, against whom police didn’t file charges.

Drivers and bikers should be aware

Officer Gardner said both drivers and bicycle riders should always be aware of each other when on the road, but in Gathambyri’s incident, he was following the law.

“He was completely within the law, riding in the right direction and had the proper equipment on his bike,” he said. “Unfortunately, nothing else could have been done.”

Joe Seconder, who founded Bike Cobb and sits on the Board of Directors for Georgia Bikes, said he’s hearing more and more about incidents like this.

“These accidents did not involve road racers,” he said. “They were using (the road) for transportation, and bicycling should be a viable option, so why not make it safer?”

Seconder said he hopes that one day the state will undo the last 40 years of development and build roads and bridges that accommodate more bicyclists and pedestrians.

“At the end of the day, I want to have it safe for the casual users, from an 8-year-old to an 80-year-old, to go to school, the library, coffee and pool,” he said.

Seconder said funding is available for such road redesign and restriping to allow for bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly improvements.

“It’s a matter of prioritization, so if people can understand that we can make complete streets, we can make them safer by simply redesigning them,” he said.

He also reminds drivers that Georgia law, signed by Gov. Nathan Deal in 2011, requires a 3-foot passing radius when driving around bicycle riders.

“We need to add signage throughout the state and have advertising and enforcement of this law,” he said.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
April 15, 2013
Quit trying. Nothing you propose will protect a Cooper from a crash with a Humvee. Unless you propose a road with walls for the Cooper and a road with walls for the Humvee. A bicycle in the same traffic as a car will never be safe, no matter what you try to do. Period. End of story. I learned this when I was five years old.
good point
April 18, 2013
Non-resident cars should be banned from the city limit. We should not have one single vehicle passing thru. If downtown Atlanta can ban the tractor trailers from passing through, surely we can ban the a-holes from East Cobb, West Cobb and Paulding from passing through on their way to the country where they "bought bigger" regardless of the consequences for those who "bought closer"

We talk and talk and talk about how Illegals are ruining Marietta, but the truth is that it's the jerks in West Cobb and Pauldung McMansions that ruin our city on a daily basis. But hey they keep moving so we are blind to them, right? They have to get out of their cars before we notice they are a problem right?
Nothing could be dun
April 12, 2013
“He was completely within the law, riding in the right direction and had the proper equipment on his bike,” he said. “Unfortunately, nothing else could have been done.”

“Unfortunately, nothing else could have been done.”

“Unfortunately, NOTHING else could have been done.'

No, unforunately our city "LEADERS" have CHOSEN to do NOTHING but focus on cars since the invention of the Model T.

Visit the Marietta History Museum and you can see plenty of pictures of hundreds of bicycle commuters in downtown Marietta.

This was a great place to live before we chose suicide by car for ourselves, before we dug up our neighborhoods and build five lane highways right through them so people (NOT us) could "buy bigger" out in the country in West Cobb and Paulding.

We bankrupted our quality of life here in City of Marietta for other peoples' mortgages.

I am calling you out, Goldstein Family, and your current cast of antagonists, Tumlin and the remainder of the city council.


Complete the 120 Loop so it goes AROUND Marietta instead of bisecting Marietta. Send it AROUND.

The only thing that's reasonable where the South Marietta Parkway currently resides would be greenspace. Why did we build a bus station ACROSS A FIVE LANE HIGHWAY (with crosswalks half a mile apart at best) from the neighborhoods, especially when that five lane highway is a highway for people who think they are better than us as they head to their upside-down West Cobb Paulding McMansion? How does this utter foolishness go on here? Aren't WE in charge of our own city? IT SEEMS WE ARE NOT!
Mellow John
April 11, 2013
I'm a cyclist. This is a tragedy, but not surprising.

First, riding a bike in the dark on any road with traffic is dangerous by its very nature. Many of the recent bike accidents ocurred before dawn or after dusk.

Second, when cycling hearing what is going on around you is critical to your personal safety.

But even the most experienced and cautious cyclist is no match for a drunk behind the wheel.

Although a cyclist has the right to ride in a busy road, sometimes it is best to act more like a pedestrian and use crosswalks and sidewalks.

April 11, 2013
Omegaman...Most cyclists own cars, too. My family has 3. I also pay my Cobb property taxes. Therefore, I have a right to use the road whether on my bike or in my car just as much as you do.
April 12, 2013
I am unbiased, but I am also a driver. I know it makes me extremely nervous to be behind even a motorcycle in daylight hours. Much more attention is needed. I don't care who pays for the roads or for the bike lanes. It is just plain dangerous to be out there on a bike vying for road space with tons of metal. Like it or not, biking in heavily populated road traffic is just not safe period. It is even 200 percent more not safe at dark. Sorry, Sadlebred, you can have us build all the bike lanes in the universe, but that will never make cycling safe around thousands of tons of vehicles. This is like asking the Savannah River to make a row boat safe around huge barges; and asking a barge to be responsible for running over a row boat. Can't be done. Save yourself by doing your bike riding on the Comet.
Dear anon
April 12, 2013
Anonymous, you are a self proclaimed nervous driver, so for that reason people should not be allowed to use perfectly safe bicycles on our roadways while you in your nervousness should be allowed to effortlessly (and thus, inevitably, distractedly) drive thousands of pounds of usually needless metal and plastic around town?

Most drivers will say to a bicycle commuter, "aren't you scared you will get killed?" To that I can only respond, the risk I take is my own life. The risk drivers take is their life plus the lives of everyone in the path of the metal they accelerate down the road at 35 to 85 miles per hour.

The Comet doesn't go anywhere near my house or my job, so thus I can't take it to work and back. That idea is as reasonable as telling a driver, in Marietta, to use I-20 to go to work! DO WHAT?
April 11, 2013
Omegaman, local roads are primarily funded by property and sales taxes, general funds, not tag fees. Cyclists pay as much as you do for these roads. Not to mention, most cyclists own cars, and pay tag fees as well.

Tolls R The Only Way
April 12, 2013
All roads with private vehicles on them should be toll roads paid for directly by their users. Then the bicyclists would be allowed to pay OBSERVABLY for "their share" rather that left with the perception of being like the Illegals who use resources without paying. Bicyclists all pay plenty of taxes, (so do Illegals, actually), but haters just gonna hate and claim "they don't pay for our resources, off with their heads!"

Any public money for transportation should be required to be used exclusively for projects that do NOT require a private motor vehicle and all its related expenses. You want a private car? Fine, pay for it AND THE ROAD YOU DRIVE ON yourself!
Good Job The Man
April 10, 2013

The Man did a great job in this case, but how can we get the City of Marietta to care about the remaining bicyclers before they are killed too? Will City of Marietta EVER care about its citizens? Why the lag behind all other municipalities in the Mountain to River Trail? And the University Trail? Had the City not been so negligent in its planning and execution, Deaf Joe might not be a statistic. "But we have right of way issues," I can hear the city gov't types proclaim in their own defense. Sure, so does every other place, but our city is DEAD LAST in providing a transporation system for its own citizens. Why is Marietta more concerned with the pass through traffic from West Cobb than its own residents? The Right turn Yields at Whitlock are case in point. Just TRY to cross the street! No matter how much the thing yells "WAIT," The cars will not wait for you to cross!
April 11, 2013
I try to keep things in prespective, even if I can't be particularly fair about things. The big reason the city won't bend over backwards to change things for bicyclists is money. See, people in cars pay a tag fee for the priviledge of using the road. If bicyclists were willing to pay a fee to use the roads, the city would have a more money to accommodate everyone. I'm not holding my breath, though...
April 11, 2013
He was driving to his job. Not sure how having either of those trails you mentioned could have helped him.
Money? Help?
April 12, 2013
The average income for cyclists is over $100k. Obviously working at the Burger Kings, Def Joe probably was not over $100k (assuming he was not independently wealthy and his work was not just something to do).

Most cyclists have plenty of money and also have a car they can (and do) leave at home when they leave the house.

If we want money in Marietta, we should work to attract bicyclists and other active types to town. They pay the same money as everyone else for their cars and car tags but then leave the cars at home where they don't make the potholes worse. Instead we try to attract minivans. WHY? So we can sell them a big gulp and cigarettes (the litter from which inevitably end up in our yards).

How would the University Trail and the Mountain to River trail have helped Def Joe? Well I am glad you asked, Greg Payne. The University Trail has, for years, been proposed to run East/West between SPSU and Atlanta Rd alongside and just South of the South Marietta Parkway which includes Def Joe's Burger King. The Mountain to River trail runs North-South everywhere except Marietta where it is simply proposed to run from somewhere in the vicinity of the WellStar MegaComplex and West/Old Atlanta Road by the CSX tracks. The portions of this trail outside Marietta have been complete for YEARS, while Marietta has "right of way issues" they are evidently not competent enough to work through, despite all other municipalities' and the county's abilities to work through said issues.
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides