Cops seek 2 suspects in shooting near Northside Hospital

Police identified the victim as Melvin Vernell III, also known as rapper "Lil Phat," of Corbin Lake Court in Sandy Springs. A motive for the Thursday night shooting was not known.

Police spokesman Capt. Steve Rose said Friday morning that police are searching for two males "seen running from the location at the time of the shooting."

Witnesses described one as short and wearing a red shirt, and the other as tall and dressed in all black, Rose said.

The incident happened about 6:40 p.m. in the 1001 block of Johnson Ferry Road, Sandy Springs police said. A man was found shot multiple times in a car parked on the second level of a parking deck off Hollis Cobb Drive next to the Northside Hospital Women’s Center.

The victim was taken to Northside Hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short time later. Police declined Friday to say why Vernell was in the hospital parking deck,

Witnesses indicated to investigators that they saw at least one suspect running from the parking deck toward Johnson Ferry Road. Police said Thursday night they knew of no connection between the shooting and the hospital or its Women’s Center.

The parking deck has video surveillance cameras but it was not known if they captured any useful images.

One of the visitors caught up in the lockdown was state Sen. Charlie Bethel (R-Dalton).

“We arrived around 6:30 to visit my brother and sister-in-law – my wife’s family had baby today at Northside Women’s Center – and as we arrived, there was a disturbance in the parking lot,” Bethel told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a phone interview.

“As we entered the hospital, we were escorted to an empty patient room with other visitors,” he said. “Another family said that as they were beginning to leave, they heard shots and were hurried back into the hospital.”

Hospital officials, Bethel said, “just asked us to go, close the doors and stay away from the windows.”

The visitors were let out of the room about 8:30 p.m., he said.

Rob Markman, a Senior Hip-Hop Writer at MTV News, said Vernell was best known for his contributions to a popular song by fellow Trill Entertainment rappers Webbie and Lil’ Boosie in 2008.

The song, “Independent,” peaked in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 at the time, and was twice the No. 1 rap single in the country the same year.

“The song was a big deal, and he was a part of it,” Markman said.

-- Staff writer Katie Leslie contributed to this article.

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