Iraq Gulf War veteran charged with killing convenience store worker, Iraqi refugee who moved here 30 years ago

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A Gulf War veteran in Iraq has been accused of killing a convenience store employee in West Ridge who, it turns out, came to that country as a refugee from Iraq nearly 100 years ago. 30 years.

Prosecutors say Sean Dunnavant, 53, left his bike and mobile phone in the failed robbery, helping investigators track him down and charge him with the October 17 murder of Salim Khamo, 66.

Khamo and his cousin worked at J&K Food and Liquor at 6320 N. Western Ave., which Khamo recently sold to a family member who was considering retirement, according to Assistant State Attorney Christopher Nugarus.

Dunnavant walked in shortly before 10 p.m. and placed the barrel of a 9mm handgun on the counter and attempted to rob Khamo, Nugarus said.

Khamo, who had a concealed carry permit, backed up and attempted to pull a handgun from his belt, Nugarus said. It was then that Dunnavant fired a single shot, hitting Khamo in the chest, he said.

Dunnavant took off but dropped his cellphone and left the bike he rode at the store, Nugarus said. Surveillance cameras captured the shooting and showed Dunnavant arriving at the store and dropping his cellphone.

Officers conducted a “phone dump” and found photographs of Dunnavant, along with images of various documents, including his Social Security card and Texas commercial driver’s license, Nugarus said.

The phone contained photos of the bicycle found at the scene, the jacket he was said to have been wearing during the attack, and a handgun matching the weapon used in the shooting, Nugarus said.

Ballistic evidence showed the single casing found on the store counter was not fired from Khamo’s pistol, which was the only weapon recovered, Nugarus said.

A witness who has known Dunnavant for about three years recognized him, his coat and his bicycle from footage from the surveillance footage, Nugarus said.

The witness provided investigators with Dunnavant’s cell phone number, which matched the number of the phone recovered at the scene, he said.

The witness’s number was also recorded in the cell phone, Nugarus said. When Dunnavant was arrested, he provided detectives with the same number assigned to the cell phone.

Additional video recovered by detectives showed Dunnavant entering a pawn shop on September 19 after arriving on a bicycle that appeared to be the same one used in the murder, Nugarus said.

Dunnavant also provided his name, address and phone number when he made a transaction there.

Dunnavant has a long history of felony arrests, including three aggravated robbery convictions in Kane and DuPage counties in 2018 that resulted in multi-year prison terms.

He was also convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, unauthorized use of a vehicle and possession of a stolen motor vehicle.

Julie Koehler, Dunnavant’s public defender, said her client “served with distinction” in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm during the Gulf War in Iraq.

Dunnavant is the father of two adult children who recently worked as a truck driver for the past 11 years, Koehler said.

Khamo’s family said Khamo fled Iraq in 1993 to find a better life for his family in the United States. He had owned the liquor store at West Ridge Food and Liquor Store since 2006.

Judge Barbara Dawkins noted Dunnavant’s “extensive criminal history” and the evidence against him as she accepted Nugarus’ appeal to hold Dunnavant without bail.

His next court date has been set for November 16.

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