A week after a gruesome murder just a block from a busy shopping center, Gwinnett County police are still trying to figure out if the victim was targeted or randomly attacked.
Investigators said Raul Zapata, 47, was found in a wooded area and appeared to have been shot and set on fire.
Police are still trying to trace the murder victim’s actions in the hours before his death.
David Rivera, who discovered Zapata’s body, told Channel 2′s Tony Thomas that he is still shaken.
“When I got into the wooded area, I saw the body burned and it was the moment when I called the police.”
Rivera said he pretty much knew instantly the remains he was looking at were his friend.
“The last time when I saw him it was at 1 p.m. His coworker came to the house asking for him because he did not show up to work,” Rivera said.
Gwinnett County police released surveillance photos that they say are likely the last known images of Zapata as he stopped into a convenience store at Satellite Boulevard early last week.
Rivera would find his burned body just a few hours later.
“It’s very likely the victim was out on the trails to drink or meet with other people. We are trying to figure out who those other people might have been,” said Cpl. Collin Flynn with the Gwinnett County Police Department.
The area where Zapata was murdered has seen violence before. In March 2019, Channel 2 Action News spoke with another man who was beaten up, and his friend shot during a robbery in the same wooded area.
The suspects in the 2019 case were arrested. The area is a popular cut-through between a strip mall and nearby apartments.
“We haven’t ruled out this hasn’t been a random incident of crime, but we also don’t know anything so far without the public’s help,” Flynn said.
In the surveillance photos from the convenience store, it appears Zapata did buy some items, potentially drinks, and police say that was in the hours before he was apparently killed.
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