72-year-old shot and killed outside Hardee’s as he waved at cars, Georgia cops say

A 72-year-old greeted drivers with a wave and a smile. Then someone shot him, police in Georgia say.

Now authorities are searching for his accused killer.

Calvin Varnum died Sunday, May 21, after investigators said he was shot outside a Hardee’s restaurant in Commerce, according to the city’s police department. It happened just before 7:30 a.m.

A Good Samaritan rendered aid before Varnum was taken to a hospital where he died, police said in a news release.

“Everybody in this community knew about him,” Varnum’s cousin, Larosa Calloway, told WSB-TV. “He’d throw up his hand, waving to everybody.”

Varnum, who relatives said had special needs, often stopped at the restaurant for breakfast, his cousin told the station.

Authorities said he was on the sidewalk when someone drove up and fired multiple shots, according to WXIA.

Police later named a 23-year-old as a person of interest in the deadly shooting. Investigators said the man is wanted for questioning after surveillance video captured his dark blue Dodge Journey leaving the area.

So far, no charges have been filed. McClatchy News reached out to Commerce police on May 22 and was awaiting a response.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is also involved in the investigation.

‘We knew his smile’

News of Varnum’s death rocked the tight-knit community, who gathered outside Hardee’s to honor their beloved neighbor, WXIA reported. Flowers, candles and a photo were placed outside as locals waved to passing cars from the sidewalk, just like Varnum did, videos showed.

“Even though we may not have known him on a personal level, we knew his smile,” one resident told the station. “We knew his wave. We knew what he brought is joy.”

“Why?” another person asked, according to WXIA. “Did somebody not take the time to get to know him? And did they just do this for no reason? And if they did know him, how could you know that man and hurt him?”

Business owner Cameron Boswell called the killing “senseless,” WAGA reported. .

“We just want to show that the community can come together and try to fight crime when it comes up,” Boswell told the station.

Authorities said the shooting remains under investigation.

Anyone with information is asked to call Commerce police detectives at 706-335-1847, or submit an anonymous tip at 1-800-597-TIPS(8477).

Commerce is about 70 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta.

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