A trio of masked men pulled guns and robbed a group of gay men in a Midtown parking lot shared by three LGBT bars early Sunday, demanding their wallets and stealing the vehicle of one of the victims.
The incident took place about 4:15 a.m. in the parking lot of Ansley Square Shopping Center, which is home to gay bars Burkhart's, Oscar's and Felix's. One of the victims said the robbery happened as he and three friends sat in the parking lot and talked after a night out at Burkhart's and Felix's.
The violent incident lasted just a few minutes, according to Tripp Barrett, one of the four victims.
"We were sitting on one of the flower boxes outside Burkhart's and that's where it all happened," Barrett said. "Everything was great. We were laughing and having a good time. We were all standing up and about to start walking to our cars and that's when they pulled up."
A white Jeep stopped beside the group and three men – all wearing masks – quickly got out of the vehicle, pulled guns and demanded car keys, wallets and phones from the four men, Barrett said.
"Three guys in masks jump out and tell everybody to get on the ground. I felt the gun against my temple and said, 'Oh shit, this is real,'" Barrett said.
"I initially thought it was someone we knew pulling a sick prank until I felt the gun on my head. It was terrifying. That's not something any of us expected to happen there," he added.
The robbers took the keys to Barrett's vehicle but left it behind and he managed to hide his phone and wallet. The assailants did steal the blue Nissan of Sam Buford and wallets from two of the men.
None of the victims were injured, though the men were shaken up by the robbery, Barrett said.
"Surprisingly, no one was pistol whipped, no one got kicked. They threatened to kill us all. It all happened so fast," he said. "In two or three minutes at the very most, they were done. They were peeling out of the parking lot."
Barrett described the Atlanta police officers that responded to the robbery as helpful and said they called paramedics to check them and offered rides home to the victims.
Police canvassed the area but did not locate the suspects or the stolen vehicle, according to an incident report from the Atlanta Police Department. Surveillance cameras at the nearby intersection of Monroe Drive and Piedmont Avenue were inoperable and no video footage could be recovered, according to the report.
But police were working with Burkhart's to check security cameras from the front of the business.
The armed robbery comes less than two weeks after Mayor Kasim Reed, police Chief George Turner and other high-ranking city officials met with 35 LGBT leaders and business owners – including a representative from Burkhart's – to discuss public safety issues. The meeting came in the wake of the gay club massacre in Orlando and pledges from Reed and Atlanta police to beef up patrols around LGBT businesses.
In June, an Uber driver pulled a gun on two gay passengers he picked up from the same Midtown parking lot. One of the young men jokingly flirted with the driver, who reacted by pulling a gun and telling him to "shut the fuck up."