CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) – A fired dishwasher shot and killed one person and wounded another before taking several people hostage Thursday afternoon at a popular restaurant in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.
The hostage drama ended shortly before 3 p.m. when police shot and critically wounded the gunman.
Several hostages were safely released after police moved in. The gunman, who has not been identified, was taken to a local hospital.
Police bottled up a significant portion of the city’s tourist-busy downtown after the armed man barged into the kitchen of Virginia’s On King, a Southern cuisine restaurant, and announced “there’s a new boss in town.”
Negotiations with the gunman were ongoing late into the afternoon.
“This is not an act of terrorism. This is not a hate crime. It is a disgruntled employee,” Charleston Mayor John Techlenburg said during a news conference at the scene.
The initial call to the police, placed shortly after noon, was for “a hostage situation involving a weapon.”
Charles Francis, a spokesman for the police department, said King Street, a thoroughfare lined with restaurants and stores, is closed between Calhoun and Morris Streets.
The location is about 12 blocks west of the Charleston County Courthouse complex, and three blocks south of the Emanuel AME Church, where Dylann Roof killed nine church members in June 2015.
Customers who ran from Virginia’ after the gunman appeared described the gunman as a black man in his 50s.
Tom and Patsy Plant, who were eating lunch when the incident began, told Charleston’s Post and Courier newspaper that the gunman looked like “an ordinary grandpa, but he had a crazy look. It was very crazy.”
Other diners said the first indication they had that something was wrong was when a number of waitresses and kitchen workers silently walked through the dining room and out the front door. They were followed by the gunman, who locked the front door.
Those who escaped ran through the kitchen and out the back door.
In addition to patrol officers, the Charleston Police Department bomb squad, Charleston City Fire Department and Charleston County EMS have also responded to the scene.
“Police are asking people to leave the area,” Francis said.