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Store owner killed by robbers posing as ATF agents

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

A 54-year-old Laotian man was shot to death while lying face-down on the floor of his video store.

Riverdale Police said Souphoth Thannavongsa was shot once in the back of the neck during an armed robbery of his store, Thai Video, on Ga. Highway 85, on Sunday afternoon.

"It was one shot and it was fatal," said Riverdale Police Chief Samuel Patterson. "It appears as if he was shot in the back of the neck while he was in the prone position."

Three men, reportedly young, African-American males, ran into the small, independently-owned video store at about 1:30 p.m., impersonating Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents. They came in with guns drawn, shouting, "ATF! ATF! Get down!"

There were reportedly 20 to 25 people in a back room of the video store, involved in what Patterson would only characterize as an "illegal operation."

According to the police chief, the video store was a front for the illegal operation -- "They weren't watching videos," he said -- and the armed robbers apparently staked out the activity for a few weeks, before trying to rob the place.

After the armed men ordered the 20 to 25 people to lie on the ground, face-down, they began to move from person to person, taking wallets and jewelry. They reportedly shot Thannavongsa in the back of the neck, and continued to rob people.

"It was definitely a robbery, but we're not quite sure how the homicide ties in. I'm not sure why they needed to kill this guy," Patterson said.

Police were called at 1:42 p.m., a anonymous call which was apparently placed from a nearby pay phone. When officers arrived at 1:44 p.m., Thannavongsa was dead and only one witness was still at the store to talk to police. Everyone else, the witness said, ran away.

The witness told police he got a good look at one of the armed perpetrators, and he described the man to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation sketch artist. Police released the sketch on Monday, saying the young man with a bit of hair on his upper lip and strong cheek bones is a "person of interest" in the murder of the 54-year-old Laotian.

Investigators are still seeking information about the robbery and murder. They're asking anyone who has seen the man in the sketch, and any witnesses who were at Thai Video, 6499 Ga. Highway 85, to please call, either Capt. James Eason, at (770) 909-5425, or Investigator Michael Tarrant, at (770) 909-5430.