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Man armed with six guns and body armor arrested inside Atlanta grocery store, police said

Police confiscated multiple firearms, ammunition and a knife from a man at a Publix grocery store in Atlanta. (WSB-TV)

Charles Russell was shopping for an Instacart order inside a Publix supermarket in Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon when he saw a man with a rifle walking into a bathroom.

“I saw an AR-15,” Russell told WSB-TV, referring to a similar style of semiautomatic weapon that a gunman used to kill 10 in a Boulder, Colo., supermarket on Monday. “This kind of startled me just again with events that recently happened in the grocery store up in Colorado.”

Russell told a store manager about the gun, and an employee phoned police, who arrested Rico Marley, 22, after he exited the bathroom, the Atlanta Police Department said in a news release on Wednesday.

Officers found six firearms in Marley’s possession, including two long guns and four pistols, police said. They also found body armor, ammunition and a knife, according to a police photo of the weapons, WSB-TV reported.

Police arrested a suspect wearing body armor and carrying five guns inside a Publix store in Atlanta on March 24. (Video: Reuters)

While police said they have yet to determine why Marley allegedly brought the large arsenal into a grocery store, the incident raised public alarm after the deadly shooting this week at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo., where police said a 21-year-old gunman armed with an AR-15-style pistol killed 10 people, including a police officer. That incident came just one week after a man shot and killed eight people, including six Asian women, at three Atlanta-area spas.

The shootings have renewed calls for stronger gun control measures, as well as arguments against implementing new regulations to restrict access to firearms in the United States. President Biden called for tightening restrictions on Tuesday, including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and stricter background checks. Democrats have largely backed those suggestions.

Shootings spur Biden to call for tighter gun rules

But some Republican lawmakers have launched efforts to oppose any new gun control and to obstruct attempts to erect barriers to gun ownership. One South Carolina state senator this week proposed making every state resident over 17 a member of an “unorganized militia,” which could be called up at any time by the state’s governor, to circumvent federal gun rules. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) on Tuesday called the push for new gun control regulations “ridiculous theater.”

Russell told WSB-TV that Marley did not try to hide the rifle he had carried inside the Atlanta grocery store on Wednesday. Open carry is legal in Georgia, and people can carry a concealed gun with a permit.

“The weapon was leaned up in the stall of the bathroom, and it was not in a case,” he told the station. “I saw it clear as day.”

Russell said that he saw Marley wearing a white T-shirt and black pants, and he was not wearing the body armor in his possession.

The 22-year-old taken for a mental health evaluation, though police did not disclose any findings related to the man’s state of mind. Police charged Marley with reckless conduct and transferred him to the Fulton County Jail. Jail records show Marley was later also charged with six counts of possession of a firearm or knife and five counts of attempting to commit a felony.

Police said the investigation is ongoing.