Convicted felon charged in fatal shooting of Chicago liquor store owner

A veteran of the Gulf War in Iraq has been charged with killing a convenience store worker in West Ridge who, it turned out, came to this country as a refugee from Iraq nearly 30 years ago.

Prosecutors say Sean Dunnavant, 53, left behind his bicycle and cellphone during the botched robbery, helping investigators track him down and charge him with the murder of 66-year-old Salim Khamo on Oct. 17.

Khamo and his cousin had been working at J & K Food and Liquor at 6320 N. Western Ave., which Khamo recently sold to a family member with plans to retire, according to Assistant State’s Attorney Christopher Nugarus.


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

Khamo, who had a concealed carry license, stepped back and tried to pull a handgun out of his waistband, Nugarus said. That’s when Dunnavant fired a single shot, striking Khamo in the chest, he said.

Dunnavant took off but dropped his cellphone and left behind the bike he had ridden to 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, as well as images of various documents, including his Social Security card and his commercial driver’s license from Texas, Nugarus said.

The phone had pictures of the bike found at the scene, the jacket he was allegedly wearing during the attack and a handgun consistent with the weapon used in the shooting, Nugarus said.

Sean Dunnavant (left) is charged with the first degree murder of 66-year-old Salim Khamo (right).

Ballistic evidence showed the single shell casing found on the store’s counter wasn’t fired from Khamo’s gun, 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 images of the surveillance footage, Nugarus said.

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

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

Additional video recovered by detectives showed Dunnavant entering a pawn shop on Sept. 19 after arriving on a bike that appeared to be the same one used during the killing, 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 convictions for aggravated robbery in Kane and DuPage counties in 2018 that resulted in years-long prison sentences.

He has also been convicted of aggravated battery 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 grown children who has most recently worked as a truck 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 in West Ridge food and liquor store since 2006.

Judge Barbara Dawkins noted Dunnavant’s "voluminous felony background" and the evidence against him as she accepted Nugarus’ call to hold Dunnavant without bail.

His next court date was set for Nov. 16.