Hatchet attack at ex-wife’s home prompted fatal shooting of former NASCAR driver, police say

ATHENS, Ga. — Former NASCAR driver John Wes Townley was shot and killed Saturday night after allegedly attacking his ex-wife and another man with a hatchet in her home in Athens, Georgia, authorities said Monday.

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According to police, 31-year-old John Wes Townley arrived armed with the weapon at the Morton Avenue home occupied by Laura Townley and a man identified as Zachary Anderson, sparking “an altercation” with Anderson, the Athens Banner-Herald reported.

“During the course of that altercation, Mr. Anderson discharged his firearm several times, striking Mr. Townley and Ms. Townley,” Athens-Clarke County Police Lt. Shaun Barnett told WSB-TV.

Meanwhile, police said that the shooting of Laura Townley was accidental, the TV station reported.

According to the Banner-Herald, John Wes Townley died of his injuries at an area hospital, while Laura Townley is expected to survive injuries characterized by police as “serious.”

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Brooke Avino, a University of Georgia student who lives next door to the home where the shooting occurred, called the turn of events “tragic.”

“It was a very confusing and scary situation, and also very tragic for the family,” Avino told WSB-TV.

According to police, John Wes Townley filed for divorce from Laura Townley in February, and the petition was finalized recently, the Banner-Herald reported.

As of Monday, no charges had been filed in the ongoing investigation, WSB-TV reported.

John Wes Townley competed in NASCAR from 2008 to 2016, according to NBC News. He competed in 110 Camping World Truck Series races and 76 Xfinity races. He had one career victory, winning a truck race on Oct. 3, 2015, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the network reported. He finished eighth in the Truck Series points standings in 2015.

During his racing career, John Wes Townley had one win, five top-five finishes, 24 top-10 finishes and captured two poles in 110 starts, CBS Sports reported. He was also a two-time winner at Daytona International Speedway, winning ARCA races there in 2013 and 2016, the network reported.

John Wes Townley’s father, Tony Townley, is the co-founder of the Athens-based chicken chain Zaxby’s.