Tragedy struck a Waffle House in Biloxi, Miss. over the Thanksgiving holiday. Early Friday morning, longtime waitress Julie Brightwell was shot in the head by a customer with a 9-millimeter handgun after she attempted to enforce the restaurant's no smoking policy, according to the Sun-Herald. Brightwell was rushed to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Brightwell began her shift Thanksgiving night, and customers recalled her mood as friendly and cheerful. Witnesses say she was chatting with patrons just before the incident, asking about their holiday and whether they had discovered any good Black Friday deals.
Police arrested the perpetrator, Johnny Max Mount, as he was leaving the restaurant and are currently holding him for first-degree murder with a $2 million bond. Friends and former colleagues of Mount tell the Associated Press that he previously worked as a firefighter but left the department in 2002 after being hit by a car. Mount allegedly suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident.
Sadly, this isn't the first violent crime to take place inside a Waffle House. In 2014, a cook at an Atlanta-area location shot and killed an "unruly" customer. In another incident, a customer at a Charleston-based Waffle House shot and critically injured an armed robber.
UPDATE 10/30 3:27 p.m.: Reached by Eater via phone, Waffle House spokesperson Pat Warner says, "Words really can’t describe this incident. It’s such a senseless tragedy. It’s really hit to the core of our Waffle House family. ... It’s hard to get your head around what happened in such a senseless way." Warren also reiterates that the company has a "no firearms allowed" policy, with exceptions for police, military, or security.