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Motive still unknown in Fish House shooting

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

They never talked.

Now, more than three years after it happened, police still don't know why the two Romo brothers rushed into a Riverdale fish market and shot a man dead.

It might have been money. It might have been drugs.

It might have been any of the things motivating men to kill men, but the case is closed and the motive is marked "inconclusive," according to Lt. Linda Lash.

"I really don't know what the motive was and I guess I'll never know," said Lash, an officer with the Riverdale Police Department, who led the investigation of the Romos in 2005.

It was June 25, court records show, when Jose Romo, III, 29, and his little brother, Alajandro Romo, 19, drove up to Salt and Pepper Fish House, at 517 Ga. Highway 138, in Riverdale. The brothers got out of the black, 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee, at about 11:30, when the Fish House opened, and both of them were carrying guns.

They ran into the store, according to the police investigation, and the one brother ran into the back and shot Samuel Richardson to death.There was a short struggle, a shot, and Richardson was dead.

The other brother stopped, up front, and stuck a gun in the face of Jarret Lockhart, threatening to hurt him if didn't do what they wanted, court records show. Lockhart didn't try to stop the armed men. He didn't try to fight them. He just tried to get out of there.

"He tried to run from the business," Lash wrote in her arrest warrant affidavit, "but he was shot twice in the back. He fell to the floor, and before both Hispanic males fled, they shot him one more time."

The final shot was directly into Lockhart's face. The bullet went through one cheek, Lash said, and out the other.

Witnesses told police they saw Lockhart crawl out of the store, covered in blood, collapse on the sidewalk and ask for help.

Police were called at 12:10 p.m. When they arrived, a witness handed them the license plate number of the Jeep. The witness said the two men came running out of the fish house, holding "what appeared to be a black bag," according to the arrest warrant. They jumped in the Jeep and drove away, but the witness thought that was weird, so she wrote down the license plate number and waited for police to arrive.

By about 2:15, Lash had the brothers' names, off the Department of Driver Services database. Police went to the listed address in Norcross, and spoke to a Romo sister, who said the brothers came rushing home, traded the Jeep for another car, a blue, Toyota RAV4, and then they fled without saying a word.

When Lash showed photo line-ups to Lockhart, while Lockhart was still in the hospital, he picked out the Romos without any trouble.

"Are you sure?" Lash said.

"Yes," he said.

"How sure?"

"One hundred percent."

They were arrested within a week, while speeding in Texas, court records show.

The detective tried to interview the brothers, but didn't get anywhere.

"They wouldn't talk," she said. "They refused to talk with their lawyers, and then their lawyers wouldn't allow an interview, so I never found out much more than what the witnesses told me."

Though the motives are still unknown, the two men both pleaded guilty last week, as their trial was set to start. They accepted a plea deal from Assistant District Attorney Jeff Lacey, and pled to aggravated assault and weapons charges.

Jose and Alajandro Romo were each sentenced to 20 years in prison.