‘Don’t become the hunted’: Lilburn police give gas station safety tips

May 17, 2022 Atlanta:  Atlanta police responded to a shooting call at the Exxon station located at 3843 Jonesboro Rd SE in Atlanta about 9 am. Crime scene investigators processed the scene there. No further details were provided by the police at the scene.  (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

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May 17, 2022 Atlanta: Atlanta police responded to a shooting call at the Exxon station located at 3843 Jonesboro Rd SE in Atlanta about 9 am. Crime scene investigators processed the scene there. No further details were provided by the police at the scene. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

After a string of violent incidents at gas stations across metro Atlanta, a Lilburn police officer is giving tips on how to stay safe while fueling up.

Cpl. Mike Johnson said in a Tuesday Facebook post that although crimes at convenience stores and gas stations are not new, they are becoming increasingly more violent.

On July 10, Bradley Coleman, 29, a former Peachtree Ridge High School coach was killed during a botched carjacking at a Gwinnett County gas station. Coleman was putting air in his tires at a Peachtree Corners QuikTrip when three men pulled up next to him and attempted to steal his car. Coleman was shot while trying to stop the suspects. David Jarrad Booker, 20, of Stone Mountain, was arrested on charges of felony murder and aggravated assault in the incident.

Gas stations are attractive spots for criminals, Johnson said.

“These are target-rich environments (and) people are looking for a crime of opportunity. And one of the things that they’re looking for is risk versus reward if they can get in and out,” Johnson said in a phone call with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In the Facebook post titled “Don’t Become the Hunted, Johnson said people can become targets when talking on the phone and not paying attention to their surroundings.

“Gas stations are like a community’s watering hole. Everyone has to go to them eventually,” Johnson said in the post.

Johnson offered tips for staying safe at the gas pumps:

  • “It’s important to remember to practice situational awareness when approaching any gas station. Circle around first and look for cars backed in with people watching. Don’t proceed until you feel the area is safe.”
  • “After exiting your vehicle, have you locked your car or truck? Do you have the ignition keys in your hand?”
  • “Have a plan for every step of your transaction. Get in and get out. Move with a purpose.”
  • “Make eye contact with those around you and let them know you see them. Have your ‘head on a swivel.’”

Johnson said if someone approaches and tries to take your vehicle, let them take it.

“It’s not worth your life to resist. They will get caught! Toss the keys in the opposite direction you plan to escape,” Johnson said in the post.

Johnson hopes these tips will help people feel safer when getting fuel.

“It’s easy to say it’s not going to happen to me,” Johnson said. “But it can absolutely happen to anybody.”

ExploreHigh-profile shootings in DeKalb County have led to a proposal that would mandate security cameras at convenience stores.