DALLAS, Ga. — The typical sounds of a grocery store parking lot were interrupted by gunfire on Monday as a mother realized her son was being attacked, police say.
The situation began as a purchase based on an online advertisement. Assistant Dallas Police Chief Bill Gorman said the victim had picked the Kroger parking lot as a safe meeting place to exchange money for a phone.
At some point, the deal took a wrong turn - the phone provided apparently not being what the victim had requested. Police said the three suspects allegedly tried to then take his money from him and escape - attacking him to accomplish the goal.
But police said the victim's mother was nearby and saw what was happening. Gorman said she pulled out a gun and opened fire - though it appears she didn't hit anything or anyone.
Still, Gorman said it was enough to scare the attackers away without successfully taking the victim's money. Gorman said the victim did receive some minor injuries in the attack.
With the growing popularity of online exchanges and marketplaces have come more stories of dangerous encounters where at least one party's intent is far from innocent. Similar robberies and attacks have led to setups of safe zones in the public where locals can come and make transactions in the view of the public - or even have the meeting recorded.
Police, more and more, have even offered their own parking lots up as a location for such exchanges to scare off would-be criminals.
However, even in public places, they still sometimes happen. Coincidentally, Roswell Police announced, on Monday, an arrest tied to a very similar type of crime that happened over a month earlier.
The department arrested 23-year-old James Stovall Ruffin of Cumming, Georgia on charges of armed robbery. Roswell Police tied Ruffin to a sale gone bad in the 1100 block of Woodstock Road. A veteran field training officer and her recruit were on patrol when a resident flagged them down. The victim said they had just been robbed at gunpoint by the person who happened to be in the vehicle directly in front of them.
Much like the Dallas case, Roswell Police said the victim met up to exchange money for a new iPhone after using the app "OfferUp" to set up the deal.
The victim gave the suspect $640 for the iPhone in the parking lot but then realized the phone appeared to have some problems - displaying foreign characters and other unusual glitches.
The victim asked for money back due to suspicion that the phone was not legitimate. In response, the suspect refused, instead, flashing a handgun and saying he would shoot the victim if he didn't get away.
The suspect escaped but was followed by the victim who eventually got out and approached the vehicle, trying to cause a scene in hopes that someone would call 911 according to police. The suspect responded by pointing a gun at the victim and driving away. The victim was able to flag down a police car a short time later for help.
It turns out the suspect, Ruffin, was already wanted in Roswell and had active warrants for theft by deception and computer theft. He was placing adds online selling fake iPhones and was the suspect in other cases in Dunwoody and Alpharetta according to Roswell Police.
In their warning, the Roswell Police Department reiterated the importance of meeting in a public place or at a police department. The department even suggests buyers or sellers call the department's non-emergency number at 770-640-4100 to request an officer to be present.
As for whether the Dallas attack and the Roswell robbery are related in any way other than the motive behind them is still unclear. Assistant Chief Gorman said his office is still actively investigating the Dallas incident.