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China Cafe robbery suspect shoots himself before capture

Faced with a potential murder charge for participating in the Oct. 11 armed robbery and shootout at the China Cafe in Fayetteville, Leandro Bernard Johnson, 27, surely knew his days as a free man were over.

Instead of surrendering to a group of armed marshals Tuesday morning, Johnson ended his own life with a single gunshot wound to the head, officials said.

His lifeless body, a handgun laying beside it, was found in the closet of a relative’s apartment in Covington, according to U.S. Marshals Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force Supervisor Jim Joyner.

Johnson’s death is being investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Joyner said.

Meanwhile, a China Cafe employee remained hospitalized in critical condition Tuesday, some 11 days after the incident.

Fayetteville police said Johnson and Alonzo Starks stormed into the restaurant Oct. 11 shortly before 11 p.m. brandishing handguns and holding three employees at bay. One of the employees drew a gun and fired several shots at Starks, one of which hit him in the head, police said. Johnson returned fire, shooting another restaurant employee before he and Starks fled to a getaway vehicle, police said.

By that point, Starks was bleeding significantly and he died some time after the shooting, police said. His body was recovered two days later at an abandoned home in Morrow, police said.

The alleged getaway driver, Alvin Scott, 26, of Jonesboro, was arrested Oct. 14 as police followed a tip from one of Starks’ relatives who suspected he was involved in the shooting.

When the fugitive task force found Johnson’s body Tuesday morning, agents first made contact with Johnson’s relative and she confirmed that he was inside the apartment, Joyner said. Johnson’s body was discovered in the closet as the agents were clearing the apartment, Joyner added.

“We’d rather have him stand trial and be convicted by a jury of his peers,” Joyner said. “But based on what I understand, he knew what he was looking at, what he was facing, and that might have been his motivation.”

Scott in the meantime is the only one of the three men in the robbery crew left alive to stand trial. Currently in the Fayette County Jail, Scott has been charged with one count of murder, seven counts of aggravated assault, six counts of kidnapping and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.

The murder charge stems from the death of Starks, based on the legal theory that by participating in the armed robbery, a felony, Scott can be charged with murder even though he was not the one who fired the deadly shot.

Johnson has a rap sheet in Clayton County, according to Clayton court records. He was paroled in May by state officials after serving just over seven months of a one-year sentence stemming from a felony aggravated assault conviction in Clayton County.

Johnson had nine years’ probation tacked on to that sentence, and Clayton prosecutors dismissed four other charges filed against him in the case as part of a negotiated plea.

Prior to the aggravated assault conviction, Johnson appeared in Clayton County courts on a variety of other charges including entering an auto, obstruction of a police officer, theft by shoplifting and others.


highflyer2's picture

That thinks that what this man did was righteous? I applaud this maggot I mean man for what he did !
Ok, pass the gravy!

mudcat's picture

Glad he's dead instead of us spending $40k a year for, like, forever to get him to death row. I think he was concerned because he was so pretty that his time in prison would be, well let's just say, not pleasant in the showers. Actually I think I read somewhere that he was there before and may have killed himself instead of going back. Works for me.

Maybe we could put these photos up on electronic billboards around Fayette County showing what happens to live thugs who become dead thugs. Anybody got a problem with that?

G35 Dude's picture

[quote] Anybody got a problem with that?[/quote]

Not me. I'll even throw in a couple of bucks to help pay for the billboards.

highflyer2's picture

I think that as a community we should rally around this business and have some sort of fund raiser for them, being in the hospital for so long you know that they are hurting. Let's show the surrounding counties that we support our own and maybe even come up with a reward fund for future businesses that get robbed.

fayette77's picture

Forget this "suspect", he's gone. Does anyone know of efforts or a place to donate money to the employee who was shot? 11 days in the Hospital ain't cheap with or without 0bamacare. Many people post how the county and its citizens need to stand up ourselves, our homes and businesses. This employee did and think it would be great to find a way to help him out and show our appreciation. Can we go by and patronize their business more? Are they taking donations there? Anyone know? Let's rally around this bravery.

The Wedge's picture

That the employee that fired the weapon at the criminals was the same one who got shot. They way I read it was that another employee took the bullet. But I could be wrong. Does anyone know?

G35 Dude's picture

You are correct. The one that was shot was not the employee that shot the thug. Still I don't think that a fund to help him out is a bad idea.

I would certainly donate.

highflyer2's picture

I was thinking the same thing, it would be GREAT if our Sheriff would spearhead a meeting and help "us" as citizens help this man out.
What about it Barry? Can we count on the sheriffs dept. Help? Maybe a bike ride?

the employee who shot the perp was a delivery driver. the perp had one of the cooks on the floor holding a gun to his head demanding his money. there was a distraction that gave the driver a chance to draw his gun. the perp first fell over, they thought for the count. the driver went to his vehicle to get another clip. the other perp was heading out the door but the owner was in his way so the second perp shot the owner in the gut. and the one that got hit in the head got up and made it out. i dont know of a fund yet, i thought the same thing. these people are trying to make an honest liveing and this happens.

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