Downtown shooting

Three women console each other near May's Photo as a police officer questions them at about 6 p.m. Saturday. One of the women collapsed, sobbing.

Mike Tighe/La Crosse Tribune

La Crosse police are investigating the shooting deaths Saturday afternoon of a father and son at May’s Photo, 425 Main St.

The homicides occurred about 2 p.m., roughly the same time a photography class ends and the store closes, Capt. Robert Lawrence said. Lawrence declined to name the victims, but family members said store owner Paul Petras, 56, and his 19-year-old son, A.J. Petras, were shot to death in the store.

Police have made no arrests, and Lawrence asked for help in the investigation.

“The key is that anybody who saw anything suspicious in the area of 400 Main, somebody running away or driving away fast — even if it seems insignificant — please call the La Crosse police.

“We’re not sure if it was a robbery or a robbery-homicide,” he said.

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

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

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.”

Police quickly cordoned off the photo store and several businesses on either side with yellow crime-scene tape. Initially, two Tri-State Ambulances and a city fire truck were at the scene, but they left shortly thereafter.

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

According to Tribune archives, Paul Petras ran the photo shop started by his father. Mays was started in La Crosse and formerly had a store in Winona. 

AJ Petras was a 2011 graduate of Aquinas High School and a member of the school's ski team. 

Petras family and friends posted condolence messages on Facebook throughout the evening.

Police still had Main Street blocked off between Fourth and Fifth streets late Saturday night. Agents from the state Department of Criminal Investigations were on their way to examine the scene, Lawrence said.

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


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