Arrest made after 72-year-old man shot and killed in Commerce, police say

Police had been looking for a person of interest in connection with the fatal shooting.
Commerce Police arrest the suspect of the murder of 72-year-old Calvin Varnum.
Published: May. 21, 2023 at 2:52 PM EDT|Updated: May. 22, 2023 at 12:51 PM EDT
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COMMERCE, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Police made an arrest after a 72-year-old man was shot and killed in Commerce on Sunday morning, according to the Commerce Police Department.

Officials had been searching for 23-year-old Xavier Clark who they believed might be connected to the deadly shooting. On Monday, police told Atlanta News First that he was arrested in the case.

They said Jackson County deputies located Clark driving near the intersection of Highway 441 and Berea Road. He was arrested during a traffic stop for an outstand warrant unrelated to the murder investigation, they said.

Xavier Clark
Xavier Clark(Atlanta News First)

Police say Calvin Varnum was shot outside of the Hardees on Homer Road in Commerce around 7:30 a.m. He was resuscitated at the scene by a good Samaritan and then rushed to Northeast Georgia Medical Center. He died a short time later, police say.

As a result of the investigation into Varnum’s death, Clark was charged with felony murder, malice murder, aggravated assault and two counts of cruelty to children.

Many people in the community said Varnum was loved and known by everyone.

“You could count on him to greet you, whether it be after breakfast at Hardee’s. He would greet you and smile and wave at you or whether it be at the intersection of CVS, he would be there to wave at you going down the road,” said Kasi Jordan. “My children loved waving at him. They would hang their arms out the window and smile and wave,” she said.

“He represented light and joy and happiness,” Jordan said. “It’s an immediate loss for all of us,” she added.

Many people who spoke with Atlanta News First said people at local restaurants and stores loved seeing him each day. Varnum’s family said he would go to Hardee’s every day to get food.

“I think as a community, I speak for all of us when I say we lost somebody that spread joy and happiness,” Jordan said.

Cameron Boswell, the owner of Skate A-Rama USA, started a reward campaign in hopes it would help bring justice to the family. He hopes anyone involved, is caught soon.

“When you have something this shocking that occurred in a community this size and this small, where everybody knows everybody you kind of aim for swift justice. You want to know that he’s caught and that he’s off the streets and you’re not in danger anymore,” Boswell said. “Our goals right now, once this guy is captured, we can maybe turn the focus to raising money towards a memorial for him or to help with his final expenses anything like that and that is something we plan on starting hopefully tonight,” Boswell said.

Around 10 p.m. Sunday night, the reward went up to nearly $12,000.

“Our area is not used to having just a senseless killing and what happened today, was senseless,” Boswell said. “The man never bothered anyone his entire life and he was a staple of the community. Anyone that come through our town anywhere from 6:00 in the morning, up to late in the evening they’d see this man in the corner in town and always waving with a big smile on his face, and he just made it a pleasure to drive through downtown,” he said. “He was somebody that could make you happy by looking at him,” Boswell said. “It just came at just a shock to everybody. Nobody could understand it,” he added.

“A lot of people would detour off of what would be their quickest route going to wherever they were going, to go through the area that they knew he would be standing in, just to see him,” Boswell said.

Hours after Varnum passed away, the community rallied together for a vigil. Atlanta News First also spoke with the victim’s family.

“It makes me feel so broken because Calvin didn’t bother anybody. He was very loved by everyone that we know of,” said Dana Rucker, Varnum’s cousin. “He didn’t have any beef with anybody,” she said. “He didn’t deserve to lose his life,” Rucker said.

“He was just for joy,” Rucker added. “Like even when I was a child, I could remember Calvin. He was just bubbly, he loved his family, and he just loved humanity as a whole. He’s going really be missed,” she said.

The Commerce Police Department and the Georgia Bureau of Investigations are investigating the shooting. Police say they have identified a person wanted in connection to the shooter through surveillance footage and witnesses.

The person wanted for the shooting is described by police as an African-American male, wearing a ball cap. He was last seen driving a dark Blue Dodge Journey traveling north on Homer Road, police say.

Anyone with information about the incident or the possible identity of the shooter is encouraged to contact Sgt Adam King at (706)335-1847 or