CHARLESTON, S.C. (CBS) — A disgruntled employee entered a Charleston restaurant with a gun Thursday afternoon, shot one person and took hostages, Charleston mayor John Tecklenburg told reporters.
Charleston police spokesman Charles Francis said there were “several” hostages still being held inside the restaurant, Virginia’s, on King Street. Officers who responded around 12:17 p.m. found one person suffering from a gunshot wound, extricated the person from the building and transported the person to a hospital.
The condition of the wounded person wasn’t immediately known.
“This is not an act of terrorism. This is not a hate crime. It is a disgruntled employee,” Tecklenburg said.
Francis said hostage negotiators were trying to communicate with the gunman, who was still inside the building.
“Right now, they’re just trying to get this man to stand down,” Francis said.
He didn’t know how many hostages were still inside, but Tecklenburg called it a “small number.”
Witnessed told CBS affiliate WCSC they were eating at the restaurant when the gunman ordered everyone out and yelled, “There’s a new boss in town.”
The man looked like “an ordinary grandpa, but he had a crazy look,” Tom and Patsy Plant told The Post and Courier of Charleston. They were able to escape out a back door.
Charleston Police sent SWAT teams and a bomb disposal unit to the area. Authorities instructed people inside to stay inside and those outside to leave the area.
Peter Siegert, 73, and his son Peter Siegert IV, 45, were quoted by The Post and Courier as saying that just after several waitresses and kitchen workers walked out the door without saying a word, a man in an apron with a gun came out of the kitchen and locked the front door.
He said, “‘I am the new king of Charleston,'” the Siegerts said.
The man told diners to get on the floor and move to the back of the restaurant. The Siegerts said they escaped out a back door and didn’t know how many people were left behind.
The restaurant is located on usually crowded King Street, a line of shops and eateries that caters to both tourists and residents in South Carolina’s largest and most historic city.
The site is a few blocks away from Emanuel AME church, where nine black members of a church were killed by a white man during a June 2015 Bible study.