LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A Canadian tourist in town for the Kentucky Derby was shot to death while fighting off three people who robbed him at random during a crime spree amid the festivities of the famed horse race, police said Monday.
Three people have been arrested in the killing late Saturday, and police said the trio was responsible for a string of armed robberies.
The victim, 49-year-old Scott Hunter of Toronto, and a friend were walking back to their Louisville hotel, hours after the Derby, when the suspects picked them out to rob, said Louisville Metro Police Lt. Todd Kessinger. The area has several hotels not far from the Churchill Downs racetrack.
The robbery appeared to be random, and Hunter was shot during a struggle with the attackers, Kessinger said.
Hunter's friends weren't surprised that he resisted his assailants, said Tania Waldock, a co-owner of House on Parliament, a Toronto pub where Hunter was a popular employee for about nine years as a bartender and server.
"He wasn't a pushover," she said in a phone interview. "He wasn't going to stand by and let someone do that."
Hunter led an active life — running in the Boston Marathon, playing softball and participating in cycling and curling groups, Waldock said. He had always wanted to experience the Derby. "It was on his bucket list," she said.
She described Hunter as a "life-of-the-party kind of guy." Employees and customers at the pub were mourning his death, and his friends remembered him at an impromptu wake.
His girlfriend, Amy Jenkinson, said Hunter had opened a coffeehouse that was thriving, and they were planning to get married.
"Everywhere I went with him, he knew somebody and everyone knew him," Jenkinson said. "He was incredibly loved."
Police said they arrested a man, his sister and his sister's boyfriend on Sunday.
Tyrone Thomas Jr., 19, is accused of firing the fatal shots, according to police records. His girlfriend, Fatima Abu-Diab, 20, allegedly drove the getaway car. Her brother, Fahed Abu-Diab, was also involved, police said.
Each was charged with murder and a dozen counts of armed robbery.
Hunter died of multiple gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead shortly before 11:30 p.m. EDT Saturday at the scene of the shooting, said Jo-Ann Farmer, the local chief deputy coroner.
Police believe the three suspects committed a string of armed robberies Friday and Saturday around hotels and apartment complexes, coinciding with the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs officials said 170,513 people crammed into the historic track, surpassing the previous attendance record of 165,307 set in 2012.
Police followed up on leads from witnesses to make the arrests, Kessinger said.
"It looks like they were concentrating in a general area and that they were targeting people that were walking on the street or walking through parking lots," Kessinger said.
Court records show Thomas was arrested earlier this year on drug charges. On April 1, a police officer who stopped him in Louisville wrote in a police report that he could smell marijuana wafting from the car. Thomas allowed the officer to search his Chevrolet, where he found three Xanax pills, marijuana and a loaded Smith & Wesson pistol. Those charges are still pending.
Fatima Abu-Diab and Fahed Abu-Diab were also charged Sunday with drug offenses.
Fatima Abu-Diab allegedly had a small amount of heroin, loose Xanax pills and several thousand dollars in cash on her when she was arrested, the police report says. She was sentenced to six months in jail last year on a misdemeanor assault charge.
Fahed Abu-diab had 20 loose Xanax pills, marijuana and about $9,000 cash when arrested, the police report says. He pleaded guilty earlier this year to marijuana possession.
Churchill Downs spokesman John Asher said Monday that track officials were saddened by "this senseless tragedy."
"We're encouraged that arrests have been made and we join our entire community in offering thoughts and prayers to the victim's family and loved ones," Asher said.