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Hardware store owner shot

ALBANY, Ga. -- A man shot the owner of P&P Hardware at 2500 N. Slappey Blvd. in the shoulder at about 8 a.m. Saturday while trying to rob the store, an Albany Police Department official said.

"Walter Phelps, 67, suffered a gunshot to the shoulder. The bullet moved around to his abdomen," said Phyllis Banks, Albany police spokeswoman. "He was taken to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital for treatment."

A family friend who wished to remain anonymous said that Phelps had undergone surgery at the hospital. Phelps was in fair condition at Saturday said a hospital spokeswoman.

Police are searching for a black man in his 20s, about 6 feet 4 inches tall, with "a low haircut," Banks said. The shooter used a chrome handgun and fled the scene on foot without any money, she added.

The law enforcement response to the emergency dispatch included a Georgia Bureau of Investigation helicopter and Dougherty County Police Department K-9 search dogs in the morning.

Employees at the store had been having breakfast at a McDonalds across 18th Street on Slappey Boulevard when they saw police arrive, Banks said. They ran over to the store, where Phelps, a Lee County resident and a former county commissioner, had been opening the store to sell shelled peas.

About 12:30 p.m., no regular employees staffed the store. The store remained open with about six people who described themselves as friends of the Phelps family handling customers. By 3:30 p.m. there was no answer to a call to the store.

Other friends, such as Ed Duffy, Lee County Commission chairman, and Bob Whitfield, 81, came by to learn what had happened.

"I don't understand why things like this happen. It just doesn't make sense," Whitfield said. "He is a deacon in my church (Calvary Baptist Church, Albany). I read about all the robberies and it just doesn't make sense."

Anyone with additional information on this crime should call Crime Stoppers at (229) 436-TIPS (8477) or investigations at (229) 431-3288. The Spanish speaking APD-COP Tip Line is (229) 434-2677.

Crime stoppers is an anonymous tipline. People with information could become eligible for cash rewards.