ABINGDON, Md. (AP) — A gunman fatally shot a sheriff’s deputy inside a crowded restaurant at lunchtime Wednesday and killed another deputy in a shootout, authorities and witnesses said.
The gunman was killed in the exchange of gunfire not far from the shopping center where the restaurant was located, Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler said. Remarkably, no bystanders were hurt.
Police haven’t released a motive for the shooting, but the sheriff said he believed the first deputy who approached the gunman was shot because he was wearing a uniform. The shooter, identified as 67-year-old David Brian Evans, had warrants out for his arrest in Harford County and Florida, where he was accused of assaulting a police officer.
The initial shooting took place inside a Panera restaurant in Abingdon, which is about 20 miles northeast of Baltimore.
Sophia Faulkner, 15, said she and her mother were getting lunch and almost sat right next to the gunman. Instead, they chose a booth about 10 feet away because the man appeared “sketchy” and disheveled. He was sitting in the back and hadn’t ordered any food, Faulker and her mother said.
A sheriff’s deputy was called to the restaurant to check on a report about someone causing a problem. The deputy tried to talk to the man, who was apparently known to workers there. The deputy sat down beside him, asked how he was doing and the man shot him in the head.
“I saw him fall back out of his chair and the blood started coming out,” Faulkner said. “I didn’t know how to process it. My mom said, ‘What’s going on?’ and I said, ‘Get down, someone just got shot.'”
The shooter fled and “everyone started screaming,” Faulkner said. Children at the restaurant — out of school because of snowfall — were running around.
“I was freaking out so much and everybody was running to one side of the store. Families were huddling together. I didn’t really know what was going on,” she said. “You see this stuff online and in movies and on TV when it happens, but you never think you’re going to go out to lunch one day with your mom and it’s just going to happen.”
Bartender Mike Davis was working at the Ocean City Brewing Co.’s Taphouse when he saw two women and a child run from Panera to his restaurant’s back door.
“They were hysterical. They said they heard gunshots,” he said. “We locked the door and went to talk to a cop. The cop said not to let anyone in. Then, we heard more gunshots, ‘Pop, pop, pop, pop,’ from down in the shopping center. It was hectic.”
Witnesses gave officers a description of the gunman and told them which way he was headed, the sheriff said. Four deputies caught up with him and shots were exchanged, leaving the second deputy wounded and the suspect dead, the sheriff said.
The slain officers were described as a 30-year veteran and a 16-year veteran. The sheriff said he had met with both of their families but was withholding their names because more relatives needed to be notified.
At the hospital, video showed an ambulance and sheriff’s car escorted by police on motorcycles leaving, apparently taking at least one deputy’s body to the medical examiner’s office. Police lined each side of the street and saluted when the vehicles drove by.
The sheriff said investigators believe the person acted alone and there is no further threat to the community.
“The restaurant was very full at lunchtime,” Gahler said. “Thankfully, no one else was injured.”
The shopping center is called the Boulevard at Box Hill. It has a mix of shops, restaurants, a grocery store and a bank.
Yellow tape blocked off the Panera and Taphouse restaurants, but people were coming and going freely at other businesses after the shooting.
Panera spokeswoman Amanda Cardosi said the company is heartbroken.
“Our thoughts and actions now are directed towards the victims and their families. This location will remain closed as we work with law enforcement to investigate,” she said.
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