Police: Restaurant worker shot to death in robbery attempt

A North Carolina police chief says a restaurant worker was killed and the suspect was wounded in a shooting during an attempted robbery

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A North Carolina restaurant worker was fatally shot and the suspect was wounded Tuesday during an attempted robbery, a police chief said.

The Steak 'n Shake employee was shot inside the restaurant south of downtown Charlotte about 11:30 a.m., Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said at a briefing. MEDIC, the county's emergency medical service, said the worker was pronounced dead at the scene. Putney said a customer also was wounded.

The chief said Pineville police officers responding to the scene exchanged gunfire with the suspect in the parking lot and wounded him. No officers were hurt and a gun believed to belong to the suspect was recovered, he said. Police did not identify anyone involved.

Restaurant employee Dinabel Mejia told The Charlotte Observer that she sprinted out of the restaurant's back door when she saw a masked man with a pistol. Mejia still held a coffeepot in her hand more than an hour after the shooting.

"I didn't watch him shoot, but I went for the back door, and then he left running and I left running," she said. "I feel sick; I feel as though my heart hurts. I don't know what happened."

Mejia said at least three other employees were inside the restaurant at the time of the shooting.

Co-worker Nina Ramos said that as soon as she saw the gunman with a pistol, she thought to follow Mejia. She heard gunshots as they sprinted past a gas station, Ramos said.

Gwen Golden, a shift leader at Steak 'n Shake, said she worked for more than eight years with the employee who was killed. He died protecting his colleagues, she said.

"He was a really good guy, and we lost someone who was great to our community," Golden said.

Aerial views of the restaurant showed some people hugging police officers in the parking lot as other officers and emergency personnel worked the scene.

Putney said Charlotte-Mecklenburg police are handling the criminal investigation of the attempted robbery and fatal shooting while Pineville police focus on the officer who wounded the suspect.