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Jonesboro man shoots robber in park

By Ed Brock

A Jonesboro man who was at an area park talking with his 11-year-old daughter Tuesday night turned the tables on a would-be robber and shot him to death, authorities said. An armed second robber fled as gunfire erupted. No charges will be filed.

The suspected robber, Lazaro Columbie, 17, of Riverdale, died in the shootout that occurred in Independence Park on Thomas Road in Jonesboro between 9:15 and 9:45 p.m. Tuesday, according to a Clayton County police report.

Police are not releasing the name of the man who shot Columbie because the second suspect in the incident is still at large, Clayton County Police Sgt. Brian Busch said.

The robbery victim will not be charged, because "the shooting appears to be fully justified as self defense," Busch said.

The man gave police this description of what happened:

The man and his daughter were in the park at the time of the shooting to discuss a family situation when the man saw Columbie and another man walking nearby. He put his daughter in the car and as he was getting in the driver seat the men approached the man and demanded money.

Both men had guns.

The man told police that he gave the two gunmen a small amount of cash, at which point Columbie tried to open the car door, telling the man to turn around and face the trees. The man said no, that his daughter was in the car, and when Columbie told him to back up the man again refused.

At that point the second gunman began to walk away and Columbie started backing away with the gun pointed at the victim. As Columbie began to leave, the man got into his car and retrieved his own 9 mm. handgun from the center console.

When the man got back out of the car he saw Columbie point his gun at him so he fired at Columbie four or five times and saw Columbie stagger.

The man drove away with his daughter screaming hysterically. Afraid that both men were going to a vehicle to pursue him, the victim drove home quickly and turned out all of his house lights. He calmed his daughter and called a friend who was a police officer for advice.

Busch said he did not know which police department the friend works for. The friend advised the victim to call 911, which he did.

Police later went back to the park and found Columbie's body lying on a sidewalk there, a stolen Glock handgun still clutched in his hand. A set of Ford car keys were found in Columbie's pocket and those keys were for a blue Ford Expedition parked a block away.

The Expedition was also stolen out of Riverdale and the tag on the vehicle was also stolen.

The second gunman was described as a light-skinned black man between 19 and 22 years old standing around 5-foot 9-inches tall and weighing about 175 pounds. He was wearing dark or gray sweatpants, a white shirt or jacket with blue and red stripes and was armed with a chrome colored gun.

On Wednesday afternoon there was no sign of the violence that had erupted the night before. Steve Butler of Fayette County who works near Independence Park was sitting in his SUV in the park eating his lunch as he sometimes does. Ordinarily the park is a nice place to go, Butler said.

"I was just really surprised when I heard about that shooting," Butler said.