November 27, 2013

Witness says Arlington clerk pointed gun at driver “like a cop”

Employee of Smokin Dragon Gifts on South Cooper Street spends night in jail, is released on $50,000 bail while Arlington police investigate fatal shooting.

About 10:40 a.m. Tuesday, Claribel Cruz, a manager at an insurance business on South Cooper Street, heard “two pops like echoes through the wall.”

Telling employees and customers to run for cover in the back room, Cruz hurried to lock the front door.

The others “just started scrambling,” she said. “One lady was in here screaming.”

Through the glass at the front of the shop, she saw a man run out of the Smokin Dragon Gifts shop two doors down, chased by a man she recognized as a shop employee.

The next thing she knew, Cruz said, the man being chased was lying in the parking lot near a silver sedan, moving slightly.

The shop employee went to the passenger side of the car and pointed his gun at a man in the driver’s seat “like a cop,” Cruz said.

The shop employee, Johnathan Brian Lambert, now faces a murder charge in the death of the man Cruz saw lying on the ground.

Lambert, of River Oaks, was arrested at the scene. He was released from the Arlington Jail on Wednesday afternoon on $50,000 bail, according to police.

Lambert’s 28th birthday was Tuesday.

The dead man’s name had not been released by Wednesday evening.

Lambert told investigators he believed that the man was a shoplifter.

Lambert’s jail booking photo has not been released because detectives are still using it in their investigation, police spokeswoman Tiara Ellis Richard said.

He faces a murder charge because the man posed no threat to human life and was running away, which is not a justifiable reason to use deadly force, she said.

‘We heard a pop, pop

Earlier Tuesday morning, a co-worker of Lambert’s at the Smokin Dragon shop had bought breakfast at Southern Maid Donuts a few doors away. Both are in the 5900 block of South Cooper Street.

Shop owner Jane Chung said Lambert had been coming in about twice a week since the shop opened about two years ago. She said she thought he was a “nice guy.”

About 10:40 a.m., she, too, heard the “pop, pop” of gunshots and later saw Lambert’s co-worker standing outside the Smokin Dragon with a gun in one hand and a phone in the other.

“If their lives weren’t threatened, why would they shoot over just a petty theft?” she said.

Cruz, the manager at A-Max Auto Insurance two doors down, expressed a similar opinion.

“As long as I don’t feel you are going to shoot me, then I’m not going to do anything,” Cruz said. “It’s not worth it — especially around the holidays.”

Officers believe that the dead man and the sedan driver were unarmed and that Lambert fired the only shot, Richard said.

The sedan driver and the second Smokin Dragon clerk were not arrested.

In addition to the sedan, police impounded a black Mercedes-Benz with a gunshot in the door. The car was parked nearby while its owner was in a nail salon.

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