Newly naturalized as a U.S. citizen, May Araim looked forward to traveling freely as an American to her native Iraq. First, though, she needed to see a cousin from Atlanta whose cancer might prove fatal before Araim returned.
Araim, 68, of Houston was walking with her cousin, two other women and two male relatives late Saturday in the northeast Georgia resort town of Helen. Across North Main Street in the faux-Alpine village, a gunshot cracked. Araim fell to the ground, wounded in the side, and rapidly bled to death.
Family members and the White County coroner on Monday identified Araim as the victim of a shooting that stunned tourists and residents in Helen, a town of 500 people about 90 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta. The police have released few details of their investigation, but said they planned to file involuntary manslaughter charges against 53-year-old Glenn Patrick Lampien of Jasper. His small-caliber handgun apparently fired by accident, wounding his hand before crossing the street and striking Araim. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Araim, who was Muslim, and her three female companions were wearing hijab, the traditional Islamic head covering that symbolizes modesty for women in public, her nephew, Omar Araim, said Monday.
Whether Lampien saw Araim and the other women before the shooting was not clear. Neither the Helen police nor the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which took over the case Sunday, responded to requests for information Monday. The Helen police deleted information about the shooting posted Sunday on the department’s Facebook page.
The case fueled online debate about a new Georgia law that greatly expanded the rights of gun owners to carry weapons in public places, such as bars. The new statute, which took effect last month, has been labeled the “Guns Everywhere” law.
It was not known whether Lampien, the owner of a commercial and industrial air conditioning company, had a concealed-carry permit for his handgun. Nor was it known whether he had removed the weapon from a holster before the shot fired. Lampien received a minor hand injury and was treated at a Gainesville hospital.
“Maybe the shooting was accidental,” Omar Araim said by telephone from his home in California. “But what was the guy doing drawing a gun in the middle of a crowd?”
He said his great-aunt had lived in the United States for many years but became a citizen only recently. She took the oath of citizenship at a ceremony in Houston within the past two weeks, he said.
The shooting took place outside the Old Heidelberg restaurant and lounge. Employees there declined to comment. It is one of numerous Bavarian-themed establishments along Helen’s main route, Ga. 75, and sits about a block north of the Chattahoochee River.
She and her relatives were completing a day trip to Helen when the shooting occurred, Omar Araim said. His great-aunt was returning to Houston early this week to obtain her American passport. She was planning a long trip to Iraq to visit her sons and other relatives.
“It has thrown the whole family for a loop,” Omar Araim said. “She was a good woman. God rest her soul.”
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