Justin Hendrix walked out of True Love Church of Ensley on Sunday at 12:20 p.m., a service he attended religiously since being released from federal prison to home confinement less than two months ago.

Twenty-three minutes later – at 12:43 p.m. – the 35-year-old father of three was dead, gunned down in a hail of gunfire during a broad-daylight ambush at a Homewood ATM.

Hendrix didn’t know where or when it would happen, but his spirit had seemingly told him that it would.

Justin Hendrix

“He had just said to my nephew going into church that morning that death is the ultimate surprise – you never know when you’re going to die,’’ said Hendrix’s mother, Marcella Stevenson.

“I think he knew he was going to die,’’ Stevenson said. “He felt like he was going to die and the only way they were going to get him was when he was coming from church.”

Hendrix, affectionately known as Jelly Bug, was no stranger to the streets.

He had been in and out of prison over the past 15 years but seemed to finally be on the right path.

Federal court documents commended him for successfully completing drug treatment, a parenting class and classes to prepare him for jobs in HVAC or property management.

After a stint in a federal halfway house – the same one where a resident was gunned down when leaving the building in July – Hendrix was home on electronic monitoring. Not only had he gotten a job with a manufacturing company, he was recently promoted.

Even authorities say he was following each and every term of his home confinement and was doing nothing wrong when he was ambushed in Sunday’s brazen attack.

“As he got older, he got wiser,’’ Stevenson said. “He wanted to get his life together and take care of his kids.”

“I’m not one of those mamas that will say I had this perfect child. He had his flaws like all of us did, but as for him being a lowdown, murdering person, he wasn’t,’’ she said. “He was a good boy. He just got caught up in the streets early.”

“He was making peace,’’ Stevenson said. “He was doing what he was supposed to be doing.”

Justin

“I told him if he was ever killed out there doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing, I was going to cremate him the next day,’’ she said. “I was that mom that called the police when he wasn’t in the right, or telling the police, ‘I’ll help you find him.’ I don’t play.”

Hendrix twice been arrested for murder – in 2007 and 2015 – and both times the cases against him were dismissed.

In that latter case, Hendrix said, the victim was a friend of his, but they always seemed to be “bumping heads.”

The victim had shot at him before, and Hendrix warned him not to do it again or he would fight back, which Hendrix said he did.

Prosecutors did not move forward with the criminal charges.

Hendrix was, however, convicted of two counts of attempted murder for shooting two men on Feb. 8, 2007.

He received two 20-year sentences with three to serve.

He was also convicted that same year of cocaine possession and sentenced to one year in the drug case.

Because he was a convicted felon, he was prohibited from carrying a gun. He continued to do so, his mother said, because he felt he had no choice.

“He had threats against his life, so he always had to a carry a gun,’’ Stevenson said. “He had been walking around with the fear of somebody killing him for a long time.”

In 2017, Hendrix was indicted in federal court for being a felon in possession of a gun. He was sentenced to more than six years in federal prison and was nearing the end of his sentence, which allowed him to be on the home confinement program and work.

He applied for special passes to attend church and was tested weekly for drug and alcohol use, terms he had not violated since his release.

Stevenson last saw her son at church on Sunday. She, too, had a bad feeling.

“I ran into him in church in the hall,’’ she said. “He was the first one I saw.”

“Normally, he always had a smile on his face, but he didn’t have no smile on his face,’’ she said. “He wasn’t himself, so I knew something was wrong.”

Homewood ATM Homicide Sept. 11, 2022

The attack happened at the stand-alone ATM at Wells Fargo on West Valley Avenue in Homewood.

Stevenson assumes her son had stopped to get cash since he had work the following day and had to be there early.

Homewood police Sgt. John Car said officers were dispatched to a report of shots fired with a person down at the ATM.

They arrived to find Hendrix suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead on the scene.

“This appears to be a targeted attack and there is no immediate risk to the general public,’’ Carr said at the time.

Police marked at least 10 shell casings in bank parking lot, which is right across the street from Homewood Police Department headquarters.

The ambush-style attack was captured on video, Carr said. The video showed a 2013 Volvo XC90 pull up behind Hendrix. A masked suspect exited the passenger side of the vehicle and opened fire on Hendrix.

The vehicle fled after the shooting.

Homewood ATM Homicide

Stevenson said she felt like God had been preparing her for what was to come.

“I had been telling people somebody was going to die,’’ she said.

Stevenson had just gotten home from church when people called to tell her Hendrix had been shot.

“I just thought and prayed about all the stories you do about the mamas, the family out there crying so I didn’t go to the crime scene,’’ Stevenson said. “I just didn’t want to.”

Stevenson said she believes with all her heart that her son’s death was a revenge killing.

She said their pastor had even asked him to watch services online to lessen the danger to himself going to and from church.

“My son had said, ‘They’ll get me coming from church,’ and that’s where they got him,’’ Stevenson said. “They’ve been watching him since he left the halfway house.”

“What I want the public to know is I’m not mad. Somebody else’s family had to grieve and go through the same thing my family is going through,’’ Stevenson said.

“But what I want my family to do is let justice be done in God’s way. I want the law to handle it. I want God to handle it,’’ she said. “I’m not mad at anybody. I don’t care who did it. I want them to get their life right with God.”

Stevenson said her son’s death needs to be a turning point for others.

“I want his death to be an example of just letting it go. That’s what’s happening with these kids now, all this revenge killing,’’ she said. “I don’t want that. I want it to stop.”

“I don’t want another mama to have to go through what I’m going through,’’ she said.

To the killer or killers, Stevenson says this: “I love you and I wish you no harm.”

“God says he even loves the murderers,’’ she said. “He loves everybody.”

Stevenson is a tough woman, a straightforward woman always looking to help others.

Her motto – pinned to the top of her Facebook page – is “I’m just a ordinary person trying to tell a extraordinary person about somebody who can be saved.”

Her faith makes her even stronger.

“If it wasn’t my boy’s time, he wouldn’t have died,’’ she said. “I have peace because I’ve always looked for this call.”

“I’m going to miss him, but I don’t have to go to sleep anymore and wonder if somebody’s going to call me and tell me my child is dead,’’ Stevenson said.

Stevenson said if he had to be killed, she’s thankful that it happened at a place where cameras were able to record the crime.

And, she said, she has every confidence that Homewood police will catch those responsible.

“They’re beating the streets every day,’’ she said.

“Homewood feels like they came over there and disrespected them and their police department. They’re going to do everything in their power to find them.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Homewood detectives at 205-332-6200 or Crime Stoppers at 205-254-7777.

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