Chief: Suspect acted strangely before Applebee's shooting
CLAYTON — A man charged with fatally shooting a woman and wounding two others at an Applebee's in suburban St. Louis had been acting strangely and issued a foreboding warning before opening fire, police said Wednesday.
St. John police Chief Robert Connell said at a news conference in Clayton, Missouri, that 28-year-old Courtney Demond Washington left the chain restaurant where he was eating Monday night and returned with a handgun.
The chief said other patrons said Washington had been acting strangely before he left, and when he returned he brushed up against a server and said "things are about to get real" before opening fire on one booth, killing Kimberly Ratliff-Penton and wounding Lakesha Finch, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
He then walked over to another booth and shot Arlydia Bufford, a 20-year-old off-duty Kinloch firefighter who was wearing a fire department shirt and training pants while she ate with colleagues, Connell said.
Washington was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder, two counts of assault and three counts of armed criminal action. No attorney is listed for him in online court records.
Connell said it appeared Bufford raised her arms to protect herself because a bullet traveled through both her forearms before striking her in the head. She was in critical condition at a hospital Wednesday.
Kinloch fire Chief Kevin Stewart described Bufford as a fighter who was passionate about her work. Ratliff-Penton helped run a day care and had worked as an online producer for the Post-Dispatch.
No information has been released about Finch's condition.
"That scene was nothing less than horrifying," St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell said at the news conference, adding that he grew up near the Applebee's in St. John and often ate there.
Bell said more charges could be filed.
After the shooting, Washington calmly left the restaurant and drove home to St. Ann, Connell said. Washington denied any involvement in the shooting during his arrest early Tuesday.
Washington had no apparent connection to the victims and authorities have not determined a motive. Investigators are still reviewing surveillance video from inside the restaurant.
Connell said two St. John officers responded within 30 seconds to the initial active shooter call. More than a dozen officers arrived within a minute and a half, securing the scene and giving prompt medical attention to the wounded, he said.
"Despite everything that's going on, we won't quit," he said of recent protests over policing. "We will not leave behind the citizens of St. Louis County, and we're going to keep doing our jobs."