Robbers shoot Grant Park bartender in head
By CHRISTOPHER QUINN, TIM EBERLY
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Bartender John Henderson was quick to pick up a bar tab for a friend and just as quick to tell a mouthy customer to be quiet.
“He’s just a straight person,” friend Gene Leath said. “He doesn’t beat around the bush.”
With his bushy black hair, Henderson was a well-known face in the Cabbagetown and Grant Park area, having bartended for a couple years at Six Feet Under, a popular bar and restaurant on a stretch of Memorial Avenue known as the “Memorial Corridor,” near the Oakland Cemetery and just east of downtown Atlanta.
Henderson, 27, was shot and killed execution-style during a robbery early Wednesday at bar where he was waiting tables, Standard Food & Spirits, just down the street from Six Feet Under.
It’s an area that has seen a revitalization in recent years as more people have become willing to make in-town neighborhoods their home.
Four armed men pulled off the robbery at 4:15 a.m. Wednesday, when all customers had left the business and Henderson and a female bartender were getting ready to close up and leave, said Meadows, commander of the homicide unit.
The robbers tossed a big brick through the bar’s front glass door, shattering it, and stepped through the door frame, Meadows said.
All of them, in their early to late 20s, were armed with weapons — three with handguns and the fourth might have been carrying a rifle, Meadows said.
“They knew where they were going,” Meadows said. “They may have cased the place out before they went through with it.”
The robbers demanded money and forced the victims into a back office, where they were ordered to lie face down on the office floor, Meadows said.
The gunmen stole money from the bar’s cash register, as well as cash that was in money bags in the office.
At some point, the female worker was able to scurry and hide in a cabinet, Meadows said.
After getting the money, one of the robbers stood over Henderson and shot him, though he had not resisted or put up a fight, Meadows said.
One of the robbers shot Henderson twice in the head and once in each leg as he laid face down on the floor, Meadows said. He died later at Grady Memorial Hospital.
The gunmen spared the woman’s life.
“For whatever reason, they didn’t want to kill her,” Meadows said. “One of the robbers specifically said, ‘Don’t shoot the girl.’ “
The suspects closed the office door and fired gunshots through it — a warning not to call police — as they fled, Meadows said.
There were no other witnesses and the bar’s surveillance cameras did not capture the suspects. But detectives hope similar recent robberies in the area might yield clues to identify the assailants.
Two and a half weeks ago, four men committed a robbery in the parking lot of Standard Food and Spirits, Meadows said.
About a week ago, two men committed a robbery in a parking lot nearby, though Meadows declined to be more specific.
The Standard did not open for business later Wednesday, and a piece of plywood had been put on the front door in place of the missing glass. A man who identified himself as one of the bar’s owners declined to comment.
At Six Feet Under, friends of Henderson’s gathered and made calls to set up a memorial for him.
“Everybody is walking around in a daze,” said Ryan Moloney, a manager at Six Feet Under who worked with Henderson. “It just made me kind of want to throw up.”
Henderson, who lived in a Cabbagetown loft, moved to Atlanta from Maryland years ago, possibly to attend college at Emory University.
His friends from the bar scene called him by his first and last name.
“We all called him John Henderson,” Leath, 25, said. “Because there were so many Johns.”
Henderson, who was hoping to get a bartender position at Standard eventually, had a passion for slinging drinks.
“He loved bartending,” Leath said. “That was his thing.”