Victim, suspect identified in downtown Charleston restaurant shooting

Victim, suspect identified in downtown Charleston restaurant shooting
Thomas Burns
Anthony Shane Whiddon (Source: Holy City Hospitality)
Anthony Shane Whiddon (Source: Holy City Hospitality)
Source: Live 5
Source: Live 5
Source: Provided
Source: Provided
Source: Live 5
Source: Live 5

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Authorities have identified the suspected gunman in a fatal Charleston restaurant shooting and his victim.

Thomas Demetrius Burns, 53, of Charleston, is the man police say opened fire at Virginia's on King Thursday afternoon, according to Charleston Police spokesman Charles Francis.

Burns was shot by Charleston Police after a hostage standoff, according to Interim Police Chief Jerome Taylor. Burns was transported to MUSC for treatment and was listed in critical condition Thursday afternoon.

There have been no updates on Burns's condition since then.

The restaurant's executive chef, 37-year-old Anthony Shane Whiddon, of Goose Creek, died after being shot.

Whiddon was the executive chef at Virginia's on King Street where the incident took place. He leaves behind a wife and two children.

The restaurant's owners released a statement Friday saying they were "deeply saddened and heartbroken" by the shooting and calling Whiddon "a beloved and well-respected chef and friend."

"He was transported by Charleston County EMS to the Medical University of South Carolina where he was pronounced deceased," officials with the coroner's office said."The investigating agencies include SLED, Charleston Police Department, and the Charleston County Coroner's Office."

"We're a family, and anywhere there's hospitality it's a close-knit group of people," said Gentry's Chef Marvin Wood."So anything like this always rocks us to the core. It's a family."

Mayor John Tecklenburg said the gunman, who has not been identified, was wounded and was transported to an area hospital in critical condition following the incident.

According to Tecklenburg, the gunman was a disgruntled employee who returned to the restaurant, killed someone inside then took another person hostage.

"We tragically lost a member of our community today," Tecklenburg said."The situation did play out with the hostage being safe."

Charleston Interim Police Chief Jerome Taylor said crews received a call about the emergency situation at 12:21 p.m. with officers arriving ten minutes later.

Taylor said when officers arrived, they saw a wounded man inside the restaurant and were able to get that person out of the building as well as several other patrons who were still inside.

Law enforcement then set up a perimeter around the restaurant and began to close nearby streets.

The Charleston County Sheriff's Office and a hostage negotiator were also called in to assist.

Residents captured several pictures and video of emergency personnel responding to the scene as well as footage of EMS crews transporting someone to the hospital.

"This was not a terrorist act, this was not a hate crime," Tecklenburg said. "This was a case, a tragic case, of a disgruntled individual, I think, with a history of some mental health challenges who took his anger into his own hands."

Tecklenburg praised first responders and asked residents to keep the victim's family in their prayers.

Police: Gunman opened fire, took hostages during lunch

The shooting happened at approximately 12:17 p.m. at Virginia's on King Street, authorities say.

John Aquino, one of the representatives of the group that owns the restaurant, said the victim was a chef at the restaurant and said the gunman was a former dishwasher.

"What I heard was that a dishwasher got fired and he came in and shot the chef," Aquino said."It's just sad that you get fired from a job and you want to shoot up the place. I understand frustration but there's no sense in this. It doesn't make any sense."

Earlier in the afternoon police negotiators were called in to negotiate with the shooter, Tecklenburg said.

Police spokesman Charles Francis said King Street had been blocked off between Calhoun and Morris to both motorists and pedestrians because of the active shooter situation within the 400 block of King Street.

Patrons inside the restaurant said they realized something was going on when they saw the staff run to the front of the restaurant.

According to Sloan, the suspect then went to the front door, and it was at that point, Sloan could see the man holding a gun

"He then turned around, then he told us to get on the ground," Sloan said."He probably repeated it two or three times."

Sloan said she thought it was a joke at first until she saw the gun.

"At this point it was very clear it was a very scary situation," Sloan said. "He told us to get out from the back."

Sloan, her family and the other patrons of the restaurant were able to leave the restaurant uninjured.

A photo from the scene shows the front door of the restaurant shattered.

Nearby schools went on lockdown

An administrative lockdown issued for several Charleston County Schools and facilities was lifted shortly before 3 p.m., according to CCSD spokesman Andy Pruitt. The lockdown had been in effect for district offices, Buist Academy, Charleston Progressive Academy, Memminger Elementary and the Early College High School at the Trident Tech Palmer Campus.

The Charleston School of Law also went on lockdown as a precaution. That lockdown has also been lifted, school officials say.

Gov. McMaster, Mayor Tecklenburg thanks first responders

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster posted a series of tweets thanking first responders.

"As they always do, our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line today and likely prevented further loss of life," one of the tweets stated. "On behalf of a grateful South Carolina, thank you."

Tecklenburg also thanked the first responders during a press conference.

"I'm saddened by this situation, but I'm so thankful to our first responders," Tecklenburg said."These brave men and women who provide public safety to our community, they did an incredible job. We should everyday be thankful, you never know what day they're going to be needed for any kind of situation and they are there to protect our community and our citizens."

The official account for Hootie and the Blowfish also tweeted on the shooting.

The identity of the gunman has not been released.

Tecklenburg said the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division is investigating the incident.

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