A construction worker was shot and killed outside a Kroger store in Atlanta on Tuesday by an assailant apparently trying to steal his work truck, police told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The victim was identified as Joshua R. Richey, 38, of Hayden, Ala., the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office said Tuesday night.
Richey was shot in the chest outside the store at 725 Ponce de Leon. The market has been called the “Murder Kroger” because of crime in the area.
There was no word as of Tuesday night on any arrests.
Richey and Jason Shelton, from RG Williams Construction in Covington, were working at the store Tuesday afternoon, Shelton said, when Richey saw an unknown man inside their pickup truck. Shelton said Richey went up to the truck and hit the window of the cab, and the man inside shot through the window killing him.
Shelton said he dropped to the ground to escape harm.
“I rolled over, just prayed to God I didn’t get shot,” he said. “He (the driver) slowed down by me and then accelerated.”
Shelton said he chased after the getaway vehicle but was unable to get a license tag number. He called 911 and went back to help Richehy, performing CPR.
Lt. Charles Hampton, head of the Atlanta police homicide unit, called the shooting a crime of opportunity and said that there was no connection to the nearby Beltline.
Hampton said it appeared that the suspects were trying to steal the extended-cab pickup. He said that witnesses had indicated the men were not masked and police are checking the store surveillance video in hopes of identifying the gunman. (See surveilance video from Kroger parking lot.)
Shelton added, “It is nobody’s fault, except for somebody trying to get something for nothing.”
Shelton said Richey has four children.
Police are looking for a black BMW 3 Series with tinted windows and possibly a dealer drive-out tag that was occupied by two men.
One person at the scene at the time of the shootings, Rob Mangum, told the AJC that he saw the two construction workers running by the building then heard shots and saw two black BMWs speed away.
“They were going really fast,” he said. “It’s kind of a scary situation.”
He called the scene, “insane.”
The Kroger where the shooting occurred is infamously known as the ‘“Murder Kroger” even as store officials are trying to have it rebranded in the minds of the public as “Beltline Kroger.”
Shelton said the area’s old reputation had put him on guard and he recently asked his supervisor if he could borrow his handgun while working on the site. “He said, ‘(Richey) has a weapon so there should be nothing to worry about,” Shelton said. “Look what happened.”
Shelton, who said he assumed the men were just trying to steal the truck, said he wasn’t sure whether Richey had his pistol on him or had left it in the truck.
Hampton could not confirm whether a handgun was found on Richey or in the truck.
Alberto Padilla, a 50-year-old neighborhood resident for 18 years, said that despite the store’s nickname that at least in recent years he had always felt safe, especially in the middle of the day in the affluent neighborhood.
“They call it the ‘Murder Kroger,’ — it is a neighborhood thing,” he said. “But I come here all the time and I feel very secure.”
Still he worried that the now high-profile crime could not be good for the neighborhood. “To happen in broad daylight, that is very bad,” he said. “Just steps from the Beltline, that is really bad.”
—Staff photographer Ben Gray contributed to this article.
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