Wednesday afternoon at a Panera Bread in a small Maryland community, two officers were targeted and killed by a vagrant, marking the county’s first fatal police shooting in a century.
The shooting occurred without warning during the lunch rush. Just before noon, David Brian Evans, 67, walked into the Panera Bread in a shopping center in Abingdon, Maryland and immediately attracted attention for behaving suspiciously, the Washington Post reported.
It’s possible, also, that someone in Panera at the time recognized Evans, NBC News added.
The police were called to Panera and a sheriff’s deputy, as yet unnamed, responded. According to a witness, the deputy sat down beside Evans, who then suddenly shot him in the head in full view of other customers. The crowd immediately started screaming and running for cover.
A 15-year-old witness described the chaotic scene.
“I saw him fall back out of his chair and the blood started coming out. [I] didn’t know how to process it. My mom said, ‘What’s going on?’ and I said, ‘Get down, someone just got shot.’ “
Families fled to the opposite side of the Panera restaurant, huddling together. The gunman ran out the back door. Additional officers responded and witnesses pointed them in the right direction — toward a senior living complex nearby.
Almost immediately, a second deputy found Evans at the bottom of a hill outside the complex and was fatally shot. Two additional officers arrived and fired at the suspect, killing him. He was pronounced dead on the scene. A loaded handgun was later recovered.
The entire incident took 15 minutes, the Baltimore Sun noted.
Police believe that Evans shot and killed both officers, said Sheriff Jeffrey R. Gahler.
“We fully (believe) that both deputies were shot by the same suspect. We are not looking at anyone else. We believe it’s an individual who’s no longer a threat to the community.”
No Panera customers were injured at the time of the shooting, and an investigation into the incident is in its preliminary stages. The injured officers were taken to separate hospitals in Maryland, but ultimately succumbed to their injuries. The two deputies involved in the fatal shooting of the suspect are on administrative leave.
The sheriff spoke with the families after the shooting, and said “obviously, I don’t think I have to tell anybody, there are no words to describe what they’re going through right now.”
Both officers, though still unnamed, are being remembered as dedicated and selfless men, both of them long-time veterans with the Maryland department. One had served for 30 years and was assigned to the courts services division, and the other served for 16 years and was assigned to the community services division.
Evans was reportedly known to the Maryland sheriff’s department prior to Wednesday’s shooting, and had two outstanding warrants to his name — one from Florida for assaulting an officer, fleeing, and eluding, and a civil writ in the same Maryland county.
The shooting suspect was described a vagrant and so far, police have revealed a possible motive. They can only speculate.
“I think (he) took that action because he was wearing a police uniform,” Gahler said. “He certainly targeted him.”
Meanwhile, the customers at this nondescript Panera Bread in a tight-knit Maryland community are left with the horrifying memory of a sudden shooting — the middle of a day that was otherwise perfectly ordinary.
The teenager who witnessed the deputy’s death still can’t believe what she saw.
“You see this stuff in movies and online and everything on TV when it actually happens, but you never think you’re going to go out to lunch one day with your mom, and it’s just going to happen.”
[Photo via NBC News]