Thomas Demetrius Burns was identified as the active shooter accused of murdering a chef and taking hostages at Virginia’s on King, a popular restaurant in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.
Burns, 53, a dishwasher with a lengthy criminal history, allegedly proclaimed “there’s a new boss in town” and declared himself the king of Charleston.
There was a massive police response to the scene of the well-known Charleston restaurant, which serves upscale, traditional Southern cuisine. When it was all over, one man, Chef Shane Whiddon, lay dead in the attack.
Police confirmed early on that it was an active shooter situation. “Officer Charles Francis with the Charleston Police Department says emergency officials are responding to an active shooter situation within the 400 block of King Street Thursday afternoon,” Fox Charleston reported.
Burns was shot by police, the mayor said, and is in critical condition.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Witnesses Described the Gunman Wearing an Apron & Calling Himself a ‘King’
Tom and Patsy Plant were eating lunch at Virginia’s and told the Post and Courier that “a man came from the kitchen with a loaded revolver in his left hand and announced ‘There’s a new boss in town.’” The Plants told the newspaper that they ran out the door along with another customer, and they “described gunman as black man in his late 50s. Patsy said he looked like ‘an ordinary grandpa, but he had a crazy look. It was very crazy.’”
The Post and Courier reported that a restaurant manager was sending text messages while hiding in a closet.
The Post and Courier also quoted other witnesses as saying the “older black man wearing an apron and dressed like a kitchen staff member walked through the front door holding a small caliber revolver. He locked the door and said ‘I am the new king of Charleston.’”
According to CNN, “Sandy Troeder, who works at a hair salon across the street from Virginia’s, told CNN affiliate WCIV that she saw police and a SWAT team break down the restaurant’s door and enter with dogs and machine guns. Police carried a body out, but she couldn’t see who it was or if there was blood.”
Burns is facing murder charges, jail information shows.
2. The Mayor Called the Suspect a ‘Disgruntled Employee’ With Mental Health Issues
The mayor quickly sought to douse concerns of terrorism, labeling the gunman a disgruntled worker. According to WLTX, Burns was a fired dishwasher from the restaurant.
CNN reported that the mayor said, “This is not act of terrorism. This is not a hate crime. It’s a disgruntled employee who has come on the scene of his employment.” He also said, according to The State, that Burns was allegedly a person with “a history of some mental health challenges who took his anger into his own hands.”
Dramatic photos from the scene showed a massive police response on August 24. Burns is accused of holing up in the restaurant with hostages, although none of them ended up hurt. One photo showed the glass smashed out of a door to the restaurant. Other photos showed armed police at the scene. You can watch live video reports here.
SWAT officers also responded to the scene.
A helicopter was flying overhead.
In the end, police ended the standoff by shooting Burns. The shooting occurred in an area of Charleston that is popular with tourists.
3. Burns Has a Lengthy Criminal History & Was Previously Accused of Shooting a Reverend Leaving Church
Burns is no stranger to the law. He’s been in trouble with it for more than 30 years, dating back to a 1983 charge for armed robbery and assault and battery with intent to kill, according to The Post and Courier newspaper.
“He received a 20-year prison sentence on those charges, which stemmed from a holdup in which a minister was shot in the spine and left partially paralyzed, records show,” the newspaper reported.
As a teenager, Burns was involved in a notorious Charleston crime.
“Burns, then 19, was one of three teens charged in the robbery and shooting of the Rev. William Capers outside Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church on Jackson Street in November 1982….Capers was shot during the robbery and a bullet lodged in his spine, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down,” The Post and Courier reported. “…A 17-year-old was accused of pulling the trigger that night, but a witness at his trial said the teen did so after Burns encouraged him to shoot someone.”
Since that time, he’s been accused of everything from cocaine possession to second-degree assault, the newspaper reported.
4. Chef Whiddon Was Remembered as a Positive, Hard-Working Man Always Willing to Help
Whiddon’s neighbor Terri Thomas Wall told WLTX that he was “just a gem” who “would leave early in the morning and not come home until late at night” for his job.
She said “he loved to fish and play outside with his young sons on days off. Wall said Whiddon had always been quick to offer neighborly help starting a lawnmower or fixing a stubborn water spigot,” the television station reported.
Whiddon, whose full name was Anthony Shane Whiddon, was the executive chef at the restaurant. The 37-year-old Whiddon was from Goose Creek.
People were asked to avoid the area as the shooting unfolded. “King Street between Calhoun and Morris is blocked off to vehicle and pedestrian traffic because of an active shooter situation within the 400 block of King Street,” ABC News reported.
A fundraiser on GoFundMe to help Whiddon’s family has raised more than $22,000.
5. People Were Locked Into Offices Nearby
Witnesses described police locking down offices and saw at least 10 squad cars rushing to the scene as the tragedy unfolded in downtown Charleston.