One person was killed in a hostage situation at a Charleston, South Carolina, restaurant called Virginia’s on King on Thursday. While it was still ongoing, Charleston mayor John Tecklenburg attributed the crime to “a disgruntled employee,” saying it is “not an act of terrorism” or a hate crime. It was later reported that the individual was a fired dishwasher, but his name has not yet been released by the police. The shooting was first reported at 12:17 p.m. yesterday, and the wounded individual was taken to Medical University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The suspect continued to hold another person hostage for several hours, until the police shot him, and he, too, was taken to the hospital. On Thursday night, the Charleston County Coroner’s Office revealed that the victim was the restaurant’s executive chef, Anthony Shane Whiddon. He is survived by a wife and two sons. (A friend has started a GoFundMe to help the family.)
There were reportedly 30 customers inside the restaurant when the shooter arrived. Those included Peter Siegert and his son Peter Siegert IV, who spoke with the Post and Courier. They say that two waitresses and three kitchen workers walked out the front door without saying anything, before an older man dressed like a kitchen worker walked in with a small caliber revolver. After locking the door, he reportedly said, “I am the new king of Charleston.” Customers were told to get down and head to the back of the building, and most of them were reportedly able to get out through two side exit doors. The younger Siegert tells the Associated Press that the gunman never pointed his revolver at the patrons, and after directing people to the back, “told everybody to get out.”
CNN reports that police asked people to avoid the area around Virginia’s and nearby businesses were evacuated during the hostage situation. The owner of the nearby Mosa Boutique, Sarah Cobb, tells CNN that police “are blocking off the whole block,” and that the streets are teeming with “SWAT and police and people heavily armed.” An employee of a nearby hair salon, Sandy Troeder, tells WCIV that police and SWAT team members broke down the restaurant’s door and proceeded to carry a body out.
A bomb squad arrived at the scene, and at 2:37 p.m. Post and Courier crime reporter Andrew Knapp tweeted that a loud explosion was heard and paramedics were seen wheeling a stretcher to and from the restaurant. Following that, he reports that police broke down the perimeter, and that “one officer told citizens the shooter is down.” At 2:59 p.m., ABC News 4’s Victoria Hansen tweeted that the hostage situation ended, adding that there would be a press conference at 3:15 p.m. At 4 p.m., Live 5 News reported, parts of King Street were still blocked off as police continued to investigate. The owners of the restaurant, Bennett Hospitality, released a statement from managing director Marty Wall (in full below) and say that the restaurant will be closed indefinitely.
We are deeply saddened and heartbroken by what transpired yesterday at our restaurant Virginia’s on King. We are devastated by the passing of Shane Whiddon, our beloved and well-respected chef and friend. Our thoughts and prayers from Holy City Hospitality and Bennett Hospitality are with Shane’s family, our work family, and the customers and employees who are affected by this awful tragedy. We’re extremely grateful for the incredible teamwork of the many law enforcement agencies and the Mayor of Charleston in handling yesterday’s events. We would also like to thank the Pastor and staff at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church for all the support they provided law enforcement and our staff. The outpouring of support from the community has been remarkable and for that we are very grateful.