Thursday, January 15, 2009

Georgia: Robbery suspect shot, killed in East Atlanta

Atlanta, Georgia

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution of January 15, 2009
Robbery suspect shot, killed in East Atlanta

A robbery suspect was shot and killed by his intended victim outside an East Atlanta Village bar late Wednesday, Atlanta police said Thursday.

Police do not believe the shooting has any connection to the recent high-profile killing at a Grant Park bar.

The suspected robber, a 29-year-old man from the Decatur area, carried a Colt .40-caliber handgun, while the gun that killed bar worker John Henderson was a 9mm, Atlanta police Detective Michael Willis said.

The killing Wednesday comes a week after Henderson’s killing in another popular hangout about two miles away, Standard Food & Spirits, sparked an outpouring of community support and galvanized grassroots efforts to improve public safety by some who say the city is becoming more dangerous.

Willis said he could not release the identity of the dead man Thursday morning because he had not yet notified relatives of his death.

The detective also declined to name the man and woman police said were the intended robbery victims. The man who opened fire in self defense is a 28-year-old who works in the airline industry and lives in a northern suburb of Atlanta, possibly Cobb County, Willis said.

The woman he was with — they have been dating for a couple of months — is around 40 years old and lives in the Marietta area, Willis said.

Wednesday night, the couple made their way to the popular East Atlanta Village, known for its trendy bars and eateries, because they have been taking swing-dancing lessons, Willis said.

Their dancing instructor told them that one of the East Atlanta bars, Graveyard Tavern, had “big band nights,” Willis said.

“So they came down here to dance,” Willis said.

When they left the bar around 11:15 p.m., the man gave his date the keys to his Ford Ranger pickup truck so she could drive. They walked to the truck, parked in an Ace Hardware lot across a side street on the same side of Glenwood Avenue.

Inside the vehicle, the woman was adjusting the driver’s seat and mirrors when the man looked over his shoulder and saw a man standing at his passenger window, Willis said.

Believing the man was going to beg for money, the passenger rolled down his window a few inches, Willis said. But he had a strange feeling about the man, so he grabbed his gun from the glove box and put it on his lap, Willis said.

He asked the stranger what he wanted, and noticed the man was reaching for his waistband or pockets, the detective said. Instinctively, the passenger shoved open his door, knocking the suspected robber back a few feet, Willis said. The woman started screaming.

The man got out of the truck and the suspected robber raised a weapon at him, Willis said. “When he saw that, he just started shooting,” the detective said.

The man shot the suspected robber five or six times, in the stomach and chest, Willis said. The robber did not fire any shots.

“He just got the jump on him,” Willis said of the victim. “He told me he fired until the guy was no longer a threat to him.”

Willis said the man’s accuracy was impressive. In an interview later, the man told Willis that his brother used to shoot firearms competitively and taught him to shoot.

As one could expect, the shooting left the man and his companion visibly shaken.

“He actually said, ‘I’m surprised I haven’t thrown up yet,’ ” Willis said. “He was that upset.”

Willis said he did not know much about the suspected robber. A criminal background check did not reveal any recent arrests by Atlanta police, but he might have a criminal history in DeKalb County.

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