Police early Tuesday arrested the man they say killed one woman and injured two others in a shooting at an Applebee’s restaurant in northwest St. Louis County. The gunman was a customer at the restaurant in St. John when he left his table about 9:20 p.m. Monday, went outside to retrieve a gun and came back shooting, St. John police Chief Robert Connell said.
The man shot two women at one table, killing one. He then stopped at a booth on the other side of the restaurant and shot an off-duty Kinloch firefighter in the head, critically injuring her, authorities said.
Connell said detectives were interviewing the gunman Tuesday to find a motive. Witnesses hadn’t noticed the man complaining or otherwise upset about service or customers at the restaurant, he said.
“He was just calm and collected altogether, before and during” the shooting, Connell told the Post-Dispatch. “We’re unsure what the trigger was. We hope he’ll decide to talk to us and tell us what was going through his mind.”
The suspect, in his 20s, was taken into custody without incident before sunrise Tuesday in St. Ann. Connell said he didn’t know if the gunman knew any of the victims. Investigators are expected to seek charges later Tuesday.
The Kinloch firefighter who was critically hurt was rushed to the hospital in a police patrol car because her injuries were so severe that authorities didn’t want to wait for an ambulance. A Kinloch fire captain was giving her medical aid on the way to the hospital. The fire captain’s aid and the rapid response by police officers, Connell said, are reasons why she survived.
Police had not identified any of the victims. The name of the woman who died will be released once her relatives are notified, Connell said. Officers were heading to the dead woman’s home Tuesday morning to talk with her husband.
North County dispatchers initially alerted crews about an active shooter at Applebee’s, in the 9000 block of St. Charles Rock Road, but as they raced to the scene that warning was canceled because it became clear the gunman had fled.
It was a chaotic scene and police initially believed all three victims were seated together in a booth. The wounded Kinloch firefighter, however, was at a separate booth with colleagues, eating dinner after attending training. The rampage was over in a matter of minutes.
The restaurant was blocked off by crime-scene tape and officers from several police agencies were at the scene. Witnesses said they were told by police to not speak with the media and declined to answer questions from a Post-Dispatch reporter.
Connell said witnesses told police who the gunman was, so police knew who they were tracking. St. John officers hadn’t encountered the man before, he said.
The chief said the restaurant had surveillance cameras and investigators were looking at the footage.
St. John, a city of about 6,300 people, is near Interstate 170 and Interstate 70. Connell said the shooting in the small municipality comes at time when people across the country are feeling tense.
“With everybody being locked down and the ongoing civil disturbances, the things we as a nation are going through … we’re affected by these stressors,” Connell said.