Shot in the dark

Teenager may have been killed answering nature's call

A convenience store manager was hiding in a boarded-up car wash behind a Texaco, armed with a 9mm Glock and protecting the stored goods inside, when a 19-year-old man walked up on Feb. 16, 2000, a lawsuit alleges.

Marchello Tyree Garrett was looking for a place to pee while his two friends bought sodas inside the store, according to the lawsuit filed earlier this month in DeKalb State Court.

After Garrett stepped next to the building to pee, the manager — Viral Patel — fired twice through the plywood that covered the car wash entrance, the lawsuit alleges. The second shot hit Garrett above his left eyebrow and killed him.

"He was, literally, shooting at the dark," according to the wrongful death suit filed on behalf of Garrett's father, Willie Lee Garrett.

The elder Garrett seeks an unspecified amount in punitive damages for his son's death.

Willie Garrett and his wife, Daisy, learned that their son had been hurt and raced to the Texaco, at the intersection of Flat Shoals Avenue and Fayetteville Road, near Interstate 20.

They went inside and saw Patel, whom they recognized from past visits, the lawsuit states. Patel allegedly told them he hadn't called police or the ambulance that was parked in front of the storage shed. Tyree Garrett's friends had, from a payphone. The friends had walked outside to ask Tyree what kind of soda he wanted, and then heard gunshots. The lawsuit states that none of the three boys was armed.

When police asked Patel about the shooting, he and the other employees on the clock said they had neither seen nor heard any shots fired, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that police asked if they could check Patel's hands for gunpowder residue, and Patel then told them he had hidden the Glock in a box of Corona beer in the Texaco's cooler.

Patel, 27, was charged with murder. His criminal trial is pending.

"We believe this is a significant case," says Cale Conley, representing the family in the civil case. "The Garretts are a very good family and we seek full justice for them."??