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MARK HOLMBERG: South Richmond shooting victim was a drifter

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)–There have been an unusual and alarming spate of homicides throughout the metro area this year, but most have been solved quickly because of witness, neighbor and community involvement and outrage.

Tuesday morning’s discovery of a dead man with a single bullet hole in his chest beside one of the city’s busiest intersections is reminiscent of the kind of murders that used to haunt Richmond in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

No one saw anything. No one heard anything. No motive. No suspect.

Just a body.

Police got the “man down” call at 5:18 a.m. in the 400 block of Cowardin Avenue, just on the south side of the Lee Bridge by Semmes Avenue intersection.

The victim was Freddie Fields, 46, originally from New York, a wanderer who walked the streets of South Richmond in recent months, asking for money, or just drifting, according to those who had seen him. [Read more: Police ID morning shooting victim]

Investigators worked the back lot of the Citgo station at that intersection, thinking he may have been shot there and then ran to the vacant lot next door with his last breaths.

The Citgo convenience store managers said Fields would show up from time to time, asking customers for money.

The story was the same at the Fas Mart convenience store a block away on Semmes. Not long ago, police were called there because of Field’s persistence, we’re told.

Hungry for any kind of clue, detectives canvassed the area with Field’s mug shot photo. So did we.

A passerby thought she saw him at 1 a.m. that morning at the New York Fried Chicken a few blocks away on Hull Street, asking for change.

She was right. A worker there said Fields came in at about 1 a.m. and bought two chicken wings, likely his final meal. That worker said Fields would hang out in that area of Hull Street sporadically.

Several others in that general area recognized Fields, who had bounced from address to address, according to police.

In recent months, Fields had occasionally stayed at the Healing Place overnight shelter on Dinwiddie Avenue. He told a worker there that a relative was recently killed and he was working to get himself off the streets.

That worker said Field’s stood about 6-foot-1-inches tall and was strongly built across the shoulders.

His arrest record included public intoxication and swearing, on both sides of the river. And he was due in court at the end of the month for a felony controlled substance charge.

Investigators are enhancing the Citgo surveillance video, but aren’t very hopeful. The store was closed at the time.

Richmond police are asking for help, either on their tips line at (804) 514-8477 (TIPS) or Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000.

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