Former NASCAR driver John Wes Townley 'attacked' ex-wife, man with a hatchet before he was shot, police say

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The shooting death of John Wes Townley was a result of "an altercation" in the Athens Five Points area on Saturday between Townley and a 32-year-old man from Dunwoody, according to Athens-Clarke County police.

Townley, 31, arrived with a hatchet at a residence occupied by his ex-wife, Laura Townley, and Zachary Anderson, police said.

Townley "attacked Mr. Anderson and Ms. Townley with a hatchet," the police report said, "and Mr. Anderson fired several shots from his gun."

Both John Wes Townley and Laura Townley were shot. John Wes Townley died of injuries at the hospital and Laura Townley, 30, was taken to the hospital with "serious" injuries, police said. Laura Townley is expected to survive, police said.

John Wes Townley in 2016.
John Wes Townley in 2016.

Police said on Sunday they had been in contact with Anderson. As of Monday, no charges had been filed. The investigation is ongoing, police said.

Police said John Wes Townley and Laura Townley had a recently finalized a divorce. John Wes Townley filed the petition in February.

In 2019, John Wes Townley was charged with three misdemeanor counts, including family violence battery, after, according to court documents, he threw his wife to the floor and placed her in reasonable fear of the safety of her life. John Wes Townley pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was sentenced to 12 months probation.

Townley, a native of Watkinsville, spent nearly a decade competing in multiple NASCAR national touring series, most notably winning a 2015 Camping World Truck Series race in Las Vegas.

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

Editor's note: The Athens Banner-Herald typically does not release the names of domestic violence victims. However, due to the nature of this case and the public figures involved, in this instance we decided to provide this information.

This article originally appeared on Athens Banner-Herald: John Wes Townley's hatchet attack led to shooting death, police say