Crime & Courts

Worker killed in Charlotte restaurant shooting. Suspect wounded by a police officer

An employee was killed, and a suspect and one other person have life-threatening injuries after a lunchtime shooting during an apparent robbery at a Steak ‘n Shake in south Charlotte on Tuesday, authorities said.

The suspect had apparently fired shots inside the restaurant by the time two Pineville police officers arrived in response to numerous calls about an armed robbery, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said. Police believe the suspect killed the employee.

The Pineville officers encountered an armed suspect, Putney said at a news conference at the scene, and “engaged with the suspect.... We believe the suspect was (shot) by at least one officer at least one time.”

The shooting “started in the restaurant and may have continued outside,” Putney added. He did not provide details on who the second injured person was or how that person was shot. The injured victim and the suspect were both taken to Carolinas Medical Center, police said.

On Wednesday, police said Darnell Harris, 48, died in the shooting. The second victim, 53-year-old Robert Carpenter Jr., remained hospitalized. It’s not clear whether Carpenter was a restaurant employee.

Police said Eddie Doh, 30, will be charged with murder, attempted murder, assault, armed robbery and other charges once he is released from a hospital.

In 2013, records show, Doh pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to first-degree murder and sentenced to at least seven years in prison. He was released from prison in January, according to state records.

Authorities were responding to numerous 911 calls to the scene across from Carolina Pavilion shopping center, Putney said, and Pineville officers were the first to arrive.

Employees told reporters a masked man with a gun had entered the restaurant.

CLT_SteaknShakeShooting_302.JPG
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police prepare to investigate a shooting at a Steak Ôn Shake in the 9700 block of South Boulevard on Tuesday, July 9, 2019. The shooting incident left one person dead and two with life-threatening injuries. Medic reported the person was declared Ôdead on arrivalÕ at a hospital. David T. Foster III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Worker Nina Ramos told reporters she had a hidden view from her station making milkshakes. “I stuck my head out the window, and I looked at the man, and it seemed like he was going to shoot,” Ramos said, “so I left running out the back door.”

The shooting happened at about 11:30 a.m. at the fast-food restaurant on South Boulevard, near Interstate 485 and a Lynx Blue Line station.

The person who was killed was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Medic. No officers were hurt, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police tweeted.

CMPD is investigating what happened at the scene, and the Pineville Police Department is conducting an internal review of its own officers’ actions, Putney said.

The officers involved in the shooting are Donald Ingram and Travis Naito, according to a statement from the Pineville Police Department. Ingram has worked in law enforcement for 12 years, the statement said, and Naito is a former U.S. Marine with 13 months of experience in law enforcement as well as four years of experience in security. Both officers are on paid administrative leave.

The Pineville Police Department employs 39 officers, Pineville Lt. Corey Copley told the Observer, and the department had not had a shooting involving an officer since February 2018.

At least one Pineville officer’s body camera recorded video at the scene, Copley said.

A Charlotte-based firm called U.S. Investigative Security Services is handling the department’s internal investigation, Copley said.

‘I left running’

Dinabel Mejia, a Steak ‘n Shake employee, said she sprinted out of the restaurant’s back door once she saw a masked man with a pistol. She still held a coffee pot in her hand more than an hour after the shooting.

“I didn’t watch him shoot, but I went for the back door and then he left running and I left running,” she said in Spanish. “I feel sick, I feel as though my heart hurts. I don’t know what happened.”

She said at least three other employees were inside the restaurant. Putney said at least five people were in the restaurant, but he did not indicate how many were employees and how many were customers.

As soon as Ramos saw the suspect had a pistol, she said she thought to follow Mejia. As they sprinted past a gas station, Ramos said she heard shots go off.

Gwen Golden, a shift leader at Steak ‘n Shake, said she worked with the employee who was killed for more than eight years. He died protecting his colleagues, she said.

“He was a really good guy, and we lost someone who was great to our community,” she said.

CLT_SteaknShakeShooting_301.JPG
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police prepare to investigate a shooting at a Steak Ôn Shake in the 9700 block of South Boulevard on Tuesday, July 9, 2019. The shooting incident left one person dead and two with life-threatening injuries. Medic reported the person was declared Ôdead on arrivalÕ at a hospital. David T. Foster III dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

One woman at the scene, Megan Walker, told the Observer’s news partner WBTV that the suspect walked right by her before she heard several shots. She said he was wearing a mask and clear gloves.

An official with San Antonio-based Steak ‘n Shake issued a statement Tuesday afternoon saying, “Our hearts go out to the family of our associate who was killed in this senseless act of violence.”

The homicide was the 61st of the year in Charlotte. In 2018, CMPD reported 57 homicides, according to the Charlotte Observer’s data. The 2018 total was changed to 58 in February, when a man died from wounds sustained last year.

Charlotte’s violent crime was up 20% between April and June compared to the same period in 2018, CMPD reported.

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Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.
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