19-year-old Peach Stand employee shot to death, suspect charged with murder

- A young woman was shot and killed by a man while working at a popular Fort Mill store Tuesday evening, police said. 

The victim has been identified by the York County Coroner's Office as Karson Bailey Whitesell, 19, of Rock Hill, South Carolina. 

The shooting happened around 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23 at The Peach Stand located at 1325 SC Hwy 160. Investigators said the man, identified as Christopher Benjamin Mendez, 28, of Lancaster, stormed into the store and opened fire, killing Whitesell.

Law enforcement swarmed the scene shortly after and took Mendez into custody. He is currently being held at the Fort Mill Police Department and has been charged with murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. Bond has been denied on both charges. 

"As there has been a significant amount of inaccurate information provided through social media, I want to take the opportunity to clarify that this incident was not domestic violence related, nor was it the result of an armed robbery attempt," Major Bryan Zachary with the Fort Mill Police Dept. said. 

The parents of Karson, Jason and Debbie Whitesell, released this statement: 

“Karson was a beautiful light in this dark world. She had a heart of service and loved God, her family, and friends fiercely. Everyone that knew Karson loved her. She will be missed by her family and all of the community. We appreciate your prayers and support during this difficult time. “

The Peach Stand issued this statement Wednesday, Jan. 24: 

"Karson was an extraordinary young woman who worked for us at the Peach Stand as a cashier since 2016. She was an emerging leader, always happy to help, and we counted on her to fill in occasionally for managers. Karson cared about her coworkers and our customers, and at 19, had already begun doing church mission work to help people she had never met but were in need. We are devastated by the loss of Karson, and have grief counselors available to meet with our staff. Our prayers are with her family and everyone affected by this tragedy."

The Peach Stand issued this statement Tuesday, Jan. 23: 

"All of us at the Peach Stand are shocked and heartbroken over this senseless act of violence, and our thoughts are with the victim's family and everyone affected. We are working closely with authorities to assist in their investigation, and ask that you please contact Fort Mill Police for information."

Motive for this deadly shooting remains unknown. This case remains under investigation. 

A GoFundMe page has been started for a memorial fund in Karson's name. A link to the page can be found here: www.gofundme.com/karson-whitesell-memorial-fund 

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