Man who killed D.C. liquor store owner may have lived nearby

By Matt Zapotosky
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 9, 2009

Homicide detectives are investigating whether the two men involved in a fatal shooting at a D.C. liquor store Saturday night might have been neighborhood residents looking to score some quick cash close to home, authorities said Sunday.

The fact the two men seemed to be between 30 and 40 years old -- older than many robbers -- and fled from the store on foot means they likely came from the neighborhood around La Casa De Morata, a mom and pop liquor store in the 5400 block of Georgia Avenue NW, said Sgt. John Johnson of the D.C. police department's homicide branch. He said investigators will comb the area Monday to see whether anyone knows anything about the slaying.

About 9 p.m. Saturday, police were called to the liquor store after getting a report of a store employee who had been shot. When they arrived, they found Rufina Hernandez, 51, of Hyattsville with multiple gunshot wounds to her face and neck. She was taken to a hospital, where she later died, authorities said.

Based on the account of at least one other employee in the store, investigators believe that two men, one armed with a handgun, entered the business and demanded money from Hernandez. Hernandez "was cooperating and was fully complying with all the demands," Johnson said, but one of the suspects "shot her anyway." The two robbers fled on foot, Johnson said.

Johnson said no customers were in the store at the time of the incident. He said detectives returned to the scene Sunday and planned to review video footage from the store's surveillance system and from nearby police and traffic cameras. The other employees in the store did not recognize the robbers, who were not masked, Johnson said.

Johnson declined to say how much money was taken but said it was not a "large amount" because La Casa De Morata is a small store. He said the men demanded only cash, not liquor or other items. Hernandez owned the liquor store, police said. Family members reached at home declined to comment.

Anyone with information about the case can call police at 202-727-9099 or send a text message to the tip line at 50411. The police department offers a reward of up to $25,000 to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of those wanted in D.C. homicide cases.

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