BESSEMER CITY, N.C. (AP) – A man intentionally rammed a vehicle into a steak and seafood outlet in North Carolina on Sunday, killing his daughter and daughter-in-law who had been seated inside the restaurant with other family members, police said.
The vehicle’s driver, Roger Self, was immediately arrested and the preliminary evidence indicates he purposely drove all the way into the Surf and Turf Lodge about noon, authorities said. Jail records show he’s been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his daughter, Katelyn Self, a deputy with the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office, and his daughter-in-law, Amanda Self, a nurse. The Gaston Gazette reports Amanda Self was the wife of Roger Self’s son, Gaston County Police Officer Josh Self, who also was seriously injured, along with Roger Self’s wife, Diane, and the 13-year-old daughter of Josh and Amanda Self. They are all expected to survive their injuries.
Police said they were opening a homicide investigation but they gave no initial indication what circumstances led up to the crash that sent stunned patrons scrambling at the eatery about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Charlotte.
Caleb Martin, a 14-year-old who identified himself as a busboy at the restaurant, said he saw the crash and was stunned by the suddenness of it all.
"I walked over to my station and I heard a loud boom," Caleb told WSOC-TV. He says he did not know what to do at first, but quickly joined arriving first responders in helping those injured by clearing debris and tables away. "The one guy I could help in back, he was pretty hurt."
Footage from the restaurant scene showed emergency responders treating people on the ground outside as shocked patrons milled about Sunday afternoon.
"He drove his car into the building, killing people, so that’s why we took him into custody immediately," Bessemer City Police Chief Thomas Ellis Jr. said.
Katelyn Self, 26, was a four-year veteran of the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Alan Cloninger told The Charlotte Observer. She had worked as a corporal in the jail and was off duty when she was fatally injured.
Cloninger choked up as he spoke about the crash.
"Tragic, tragic loss of life … we’re suffering right now," he told reporters.
The sheriff’s office tweeted a photograph of the deputy via social media, adding "Our hearts are broken" and saying the agency requested thoughts and prayers not only for the deputy’s family and friends but for her "brothers and sisters in uniform."
Authorities said the family was requesting privacy and referred any questions to the family’s pastor. Messages left at the telephone of the pastor by The Associated Press were not immediately returned.
The Gaston Gazette identified Roger Self as being from Dallas, North Carolina. A 2017 profile in the Gazette said Roger Self ran a private investigations business called Southeastern Loss Management. It said the business opened in 1989 and mostly helped companies investigate employees’ wrongdoing.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police spokesman Rob Tufano called the crash a "mass casualty" incident, and reports said some of the victims were flown by helicopter to a medical center. There was no immediate count on the number of injured or the extent of the injuries.
The Gaston Gazette identified the vehicle as a sports utility vehicle and photographs showed a shattered opening in a restaurant wall. Others showed people being treated on the ground outside the restaurant.