Tennessee man ID’d as victim in deadly Lenox Square shooting

Shooting is 4th at Buckhead mall since December

A man from Tennessee has been identified as the victim killed Sunday in a shooting outside Lenox Square, Atlanta police said Tuesday.

Investigators believe Thuan Nguyen, 31, of Antioch, was involved in a dispute over a parking space that ended in gunfire near the entrance to the Cheesecake Factory restaurant. No one is in custody Tuesday, but Chief Erika Shields said she is certain investigators will arrest those responsible.

“APD has made arrests in all three previous shootings that have occurred on mall property since December, and I’m confident an arrest will be made in Sunday’s murder,” Shields said in an emailed statement. “These incidents have our full attention.”

Late Monday, police released surveillance images of three people they would like to speak with in connection with the case. Investigators hope the public can help identify the three.

Investigators initially believed four suspects were involved in the incident and detained one person late Sunday. He was later released and not charged, according to police spokesman Officer Anthony Grant.

“At this time, it is not believed that he is responsible for the shooting,” Grant said.

The shooting is the fourth outside the Buckhead mall since December, but the first deadly incident since the string of violence began. Most recently, a man was shot Feb. 10 after meeting with another man in the food court, according to Atlanta police.

» RELATED: Lenox Square shooting victim: 'I could have died'

» ALSO: Woman arrested, man sought after shooting at Lenox

According to investigators, the latest incident began Sunday afternoon with a dispute over a parking spot.

“The victim and suspects separated and entered the mall, but later the victim and suspects returned to the parking lot and the dispute continued,” Officer Steve Avery said in an emailed statement late Sunday.

That’s when one suspect pulled out a gun and shot Nguyen in the head, and he died at the scene, Avery said. Both on-duty officers and off-duty officers working security jobs at Lenox responded to the shooting about 6:30 p.m.

“We saw a gentleman approach the vehicle and was standing out with a gun. At that point, we saw shots fired,” Gino Vowin, a witness, told Channel 2 Action News. “We tried to disperse from that point. And it went hectic.”

After the shooting, the suspects got into a vehicle and attempted to leave but crashed in the parking lot, according to police. The group ran, but an off-duty Cobb County police officer was able to catch one person in the chaos, Avery said. 
By Monday, that man had been released from police custody.

With its high-end retail shops and upscale dining choices, Lenox Square has long been the landmark of Atlanta’s Buckhead district. There’s also an Atlanta Police Department mini-precinct at the mall.

In an interview last month with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Chief Shields said violent crimes aren’t typical in the area. But the recent shootings have the department on alert and seeking ways to reassess officer staffing, she said.

“Sunday’s fatal shooting at Lenox Square continues to show a level of brazenness and disregard for the law that is deeply concerning,” Shields said Monday. “These violent acts are happening in broad daylight, and with increased police presence already in place at the mall.”

Four days before Christmas, a Macy’s employee was shot in a parking deck as she left work. Carolyn Gilbert survived the shooting, but told the AJC the fear paralyzed her. She was robbed of her phone and car keys.

“To be robbed like this? I could have died. I could have died,” Gilbert said. “I’m an aunt and godmother. I could have died, and that’s something I will have to live with the rest of my life.”

In a separate incident on Jan. 18, an APD sergeant was alerted to an armed robbery in progress outside the mall's food court. The sergeant responded and discovered one man holding another at gunpoint and ordered the armed man to drop the weapon. When he refused, the sergeant fired shots, striking the man, APD Deputy Chief Jeff Glazier said.

The GBI investigated and determined the robbery “victim” had himself been involved in a crime. Two men were arrested and charged within hours, according to the GBI.

And on Feb. 10, a man was shot after a “pre-arranged meeting” in the mall’s food court, according to police. The shooting took place after the group relocated to the parking lot, leaving one man injured.

Late last month, police charged two people in the incident. But only one has been arrested.

Shields said department leaders will meet Monday afternoon to discuss the recent shootings.

“We will not, under any circumstances, allow lawlessness to destroy one of Atlanta’s most beloved and longstanding retail institutions,” Shields said.

Anyone with information on Sunday's shooting is asked to come forward. Tipsters can remain anonymous, and be eligible for rewards of up to $2,000, by contacting Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-8477, texting information to 274637 or visiting the Crime Stoppers website.

The man, who police said is in his late 40s, was taken to the hospital and is stable.