DECATUR — Members of 70-year-old Rafael Graham’s family welcomed the news Monday that police arrested a man on a preliminary charge of attempted murder after Graham was shot in his car last week.
Graham was ambushed and shot in his car Oct. 16, police have said. Lt. Brian Cleary said Charles L. Fitzpatrick, 26, was taken into custody Sunday in the 900 block of North Union Street.
Fitzpatrick was apprehended by members of the Decatur Police Department Emergency Response Team and detectives. He remained in Macon County Jail on Monday night without bond. His court date had not yet been set.
“We have been praying that they would (make an arrest), and God has answered our prayers,” said Graham's sister, Louella Hicks, 65, who lives in Decatur. “We're happy about that.”
Graham is recovering in a local hospital from two gunshot wounds to the abdomen.
Police said he was driving on Monroe Street near Center Street on the evening of Oct. 16 and stopped because he felt something hit his vehicle. Graham told police he was then surrounded by 10 men, one of whom accused Graham of hitting him with the vehicle and demanded money. Graham refused and was then shot by the man as he sat in his car, police said.
Preliminary charges are subject to review by the Macon County State's Attorney's Office. Cleary said the investigation was continuing, and “additional arrests are possible.”
Hicks, who said she wants to see Decatur's streets made safer, said her family bore no animosity towards the accused gunman.
“As a Christian family of God, a God-believing family, we just pray that all souls will be saved and these people will find a different alternative way of living their life,” she said of the shooting suspects.
A cousin of Graham, Komaneach Wheeler, 38, said the retired man had devoted his working life and spare moments to helping others.
Wheeler, speaking during an interview from her home in South Bend, Ind., described the married grandfather as a retired counselor who worked extensively with youth.
The Herald & Review archives show him holding various counselor-related jobs with the Heritage Behavioral Health Center and working with Decatur public schools. He has also worked with the Decatur Boys & Girls Club and, among other honors, is a past recipient the African American Male of Positive Influence Award bestowed by the Anna Waters Educational Scholarship Committee.
Wheeler said it was particularly distressing for her cousin to become the victim of such a seemingly random and senseless crime.
“What did you want out of the crime of shooting Rafael?” she asked in a direct message to the gunman. “Was money that important that you had to do such an act as this?”
Told of Sunday's arrest, Wheeler said she was “just glad he's off the street.”
“And now he will have to take responsibility for his actions, and we know there was more people with him and we want them to know, too, that in any city, we don't want that type of act tolerated.”
The Decatur Police Department is still appealing for information to apprehend additional suspects in the case. Tipsters can call the Investigations Division at (217) 424-2734 or Crime Stoppers at (217) 423-8477.