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Published September 16 2012

Father, son fatally shot in Wisconsin photography store

LA CROSSE, Wis. — A father and son were shot to death inside a family photography store in western Wisconsin over the weekend.

La Crosse police Capt. Robert Lawrence said the homicides occurred at about 2 p.m. Saturday, roughly the same time a photography class at May's Photo ends and the store closes.

“We're not sure if it was a robbery or a robbery-homicide,” he said Saturday. A message left at the police department Sunday wasn't immediately returned.

Family members identified the victims as 56-year-old store owner Paul Petras and his 19-year-old son A.J. Petras, according to the La Crosse Tribune.

Police received a call about the shooting shortly after 5 p.m.

“When we arrived, we knew we were working a homicide,” Lawrence said.

No arrests had been made as of Saturday and Lawrence was asking anyone who saw anything to come forward.

“Somebody running away or driving away fast — even if it seems insignificant — please call the La Crosse police,” Lawrence said.

According to newspaper archives, Paul Petras ran the shop, which was started by his father. They formerly had a store in Winona, Minn. A.J. Petras was a 2011 graduate of Aquinas High School and a member of the ski team.

Erin Almquist, bar manager at Fat Sam's Main Street Bistro across the street, said a man and his daughter were eating at one of the bistro's three sidewalk tables about 5 p.m. when they saw someone run out of the camera shop screaming for somebody to call 911.

“The man came in and asked to use the phone and called 911,” Almquist said. “Within two minutes, the street was filled with fire trucks and cop cars.”

About 6 p.m., three women consoled each other on the sidewalk near the photo store as a police officer asked questions. One woman collapsed in grief.

“We are doing everything we can to bring in the perpetrator or perpetrators,” Lawrence said.