Employee Darnell Harris was shot and killed inside a Steak 'n Shake in south Charlotte on Tuesday. A temporary memorial is being put up in his honor outside of the business.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) - An armed robbery turned deadly in south Charlotte on Tuesday. Police say a suspect shot and killed an employee just as the lunch rush was beginning.
Witnesses and a manager at the Steak ‘N Shake in the 9700 block of South Boulevard say their ordinary day changed in an instant, and an important member of their team, and the wider community, was lost.
"It's more than just someone you work with. I have been working with this person for more than 8 years. It's like family. It's hurtful,” Gwen Golden told FOX 46. She’s a manager at the Steak ‘N Shake.
The restaurant was packed with employees and customers around 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday when Darnell Harris, an employee, was shot and killed.
Many went running for cover as soon as the suspect came in and shots were fired.
"Looked to my left, seen a masked guy come in, coming from the side, come straight through the front. I went to the bathroom because I didn't know what was going down,” said witness Kenny Jones.
At least one employee ran to a nearby gas station for safety.
"He had run over here, and he had said the guy came in with a mask on, and he saw the gun, so he ran, he ran over here to get help,” witness Brenda Elder said.
Harris was fatally shot, according to police, and another person was injured. Officers heard the gunfire as they arrived.
“There were shots fired. They heard shots fired as they got here. There was someone shot on scene,” CMPD Chief Kerr Putney.
Pineville police were first on scene and returned fire, hitting the suspect. Charlotte Mecklenburg police officers followed.
“Once they got on scene, they did encounter a suspect who was armed,” Chief Putney said. “It started in the restaurant and it may have continued outside.”
Officer Donald Ingram and Officer Travis Naito were the two Pineville police officers involved in this shooting. Ingram has 12 years of law enforcement experience. Naito has 13 months of law enforcement experience, four years of security experience, and is a United States Marine.
Following the chaos, loved ones could be seen gathering, and waiting for answers as police combed the area for evidence and clues.
Harris' family released a statement just after 9 p.m. Tuesday, saying Harris was a son, brother, uncle and friend loved by many.
"As you continue to talk about this tragedy please feel free to let people know that Darnell was loved by many. He was an uncle, son, cousin, brother and dear friend. He was quiet. He was a hard worker. We are not shocked to learn that he would step in to defend his coworkers and even strangers, because that's just who he was. He was a great man and a protector, and we will miss him."
FOX 46 is told that the suspect and customer who were injured remain in the hospital with life-threatening injuries.
CMPD says they are handling the criminal investigation into what happened, which could shed light on why this armed robbery turned officer-involved shooting happened in the first place.
Investigators say a gun was found on scene, and they are currently working to check security footage from inside the restaurant.
Chief Putney says part of the investigation now relies on that security camera video and also body cam video. FOX 46 is told investigators will be taking a look at both.