Police said Thursday night that they had arrested the gunman who killed three people Wednesday evening on the city's Southside.
At a news conference earlier Thursday, authorities said they believed that Daniel Bowler, 26, knew and targeted the three victims, who were shot within 15 minutes of each other, one outside a public housing complex and the other two in their shops in front of customers.
"We believe the motive may have been some form of retaliation from previous history with the victims," said Richmond Police Chief Rodney D. Monroe, a former assistant police chief in the District. Monroe would not elaborate on the relationship among the four men.
Officers, acting on tips, arrested Bowler without incident about 8:30 p.m. at a hotel in Henrico County, about 10 miles east of downtown Richmond, Monroe said at a news conference late Thursday.
"The brutalness of this particular case angers me greatly . . . as it does other members of the department," Monroe said.
Authorities said Bowler would be charged with three counts of first-degree murder, among other charges.
Authorities initially described the shootings as possible hate crimes, after witnesses said the gunman shouted racial epithets at two victims, Abdulrahman Aldhabhani, 43, a Yemeni store clerk, and Jong Doh, 39, a Korean shop owner. The assailant's first victim, Derrick Conner, 29, was black, as is Bowler.
"We no longer believe the murders to be hate crime-related," Monroe said.
Monroe added that although the first two victims were robbed, robbery did not appear to be the primary motive.
Bowler has a record of juvenile offenses, including convictions for assault and battery, robbery, use of a firearm and obstruction of justice, according to court filings. In 1997, he was found guilty of felony malicious wounding in the beating of a juvenile jail guard. He was sentenced to 20 years, with 14 years suspended. A week before the incident, the guard had restrained Bowler after an attack on another guard, according to court records, and Bowler promised, "You're next. . . . I'm going to get you."
During sentencing, Powhatan Circuit Court Judge Thomas V. Warren noted that Bowler's record was "extremely poor."
"I note with interest . . . that you were evaluated by a psychologist who found you to . . . be well on your way to developing an antisocial personality," Warren told Bowler, according to a transcript of the proceedings. "And I suspect that that is an assessment which is probably right on the button, considering your record and your behavior, which is just atrocious."
Growing up in the Richmond area, Bowler had a "strained" relationship with his father and behavior problems in school, failing all his ninth-grade classes before dropping out in 1994, according to court records. A probation officer's report described him as "aggressive and impulsive" and said he seeks to embrace a "tough-guy role."
The three killings increased to 40 the number of homicides in Richmond this year, said Cynthia Price, a police spokeswoman. There were 43 by this time last year in the city, which has been battling high rates of violent crime for more than a decade.
Doh's family members grieved at his home Thursday. They said he immigrated to the United States from Korea in 1987 to join family members living in Richmond. They said that he had owned the store since 1993 and that he was quiet and a hard worker.
"He came here for a better life," said Aaron Doh, 12, one of Doh's two sons, who translated for a family member during an afternoon interview. "He came here to be with the rest of his family."
Calls to home phones listed as those of Aldhabhani and Conner were not returned.
The shootings began shortly before 7 p.m. Wednesday, authorities said. Monroe said Bowler, who was caught on camera brandishing a gun, shot and robbed Derrick Conner outside a public housing complex that has been prone to violent crime for years, according to police officials.
About 10 minutes later and three miles away, police said, Bowler walked into the James Food Market, a convenience store. He started yelling ethnic slurs at store employee Aldhabhani, 43, and shot him in front of customers, police said.
Police said he grabbed some cash and merchandise before walking next door to Poly Cleaners, where he started yelling at Doh. Customers there also witnessed the shooting, police said.
Thursday afternoon, there was little activity at the small brick strip mall. The James Food Market was closed, and the doors at Poly Cleaners were locked, even though an open sign was displayed in the window. A bouquet of red carnations and a bunch of white silk roses had been left outside Poly Cleaners. A condolence note, written on the back of a Virginia lottery ticket, was tucked in the roses: "You're all in our prayers. May God Bless."
Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.
Daniel Bowler is escorted to the Richmond jail after being arrested in a hotel in suburban Henrico County. Police said they do not think that the killings were hate crimes or that robbery was the primary motive.