BESSEMER CITY, N.C. (AP) — A “pillar of the community” who was suffering from severe mental illness left a meal with his family, got into his sport utility vehicle and then drove at high speed into the restaurant, killing his daughter and daughter-in-law and critically injuring other relatives, his pastor said Monday.
“Not in a million years could anybody who knows Roger Self ever imagine he would do this,” said the Rev. Austin Rammell of Venture Church in Dallas, North Carolina, a close friend of the family.
He said Self’s ability to reason had been severely impaired in recent months.
“It’s very possible that in his mind, he was thinking the best thing for this family was that they all go to heaven together,” Rammell said at a news conference.
Self was immediately arrested outside the Surf and Turf Lodge. Jail records show he’s been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his daughter, Katelyn Self, a deputy with the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office, and his daughter-in-law, Amanda Self, a nurse. The Gaston Gazette reports Amanda Self was the wife of Roger Self’s son, Gaston County Police Officer Josh Self.
Josh Self also was seriously injured, along with Roger Self’s wife, Diane, and the 13-year-old daughter of Josh and Amanda Self. They are all expected to survive their injuries.
Police gave no initial indication what circumstances led up to the crash that sent stunned patrons scrambling Sunday afternoon at the eatery about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Charlotte. “He drove his car into the building, killing people, so that’s why we took him into custody immediately,” Bessemer City Police Chief Thomas Ellis Jr. said.
But the pastor said that Self, his longtime friend, was struggling with mental illness so severe that he asked his son Josh to take his guns away about 10 weeks ago. Rammell said family and friends surrounded him and referring him to a psychiatrist. Rammell said Self had told them he was taking medicine for depression and anxiety, but he was becoming particularly unstable over the weekend.
“This wasn’t your normal, what you and I would go through when something bad happens in life. This was a roller coaster and in the last few days it went from bad to really bad.”
The pastor said Katelyn Self had set up the after-church family reunion lunch at the steak restaurant.
“She wanted to have all the family together to have a good time with her dad,” he said. “They were laughing, had ordered some drinks, had some appetizers. Roger got up … Some of them thought he was probably going to leave and come back. They began noticing his car out in the parking lot had circled, and the next thing you know he came through the window.”
Restaurant busboy Caleb Martin, 14, said he saw the crash and tried to help by clearing debris and tables away.
“I walked over to my station and I heard a loud boom,” Caleb told WSOC-TV. “The one guy I could help in back, he was pretty hurt.”
Katelyn Self, 26, was a four-year veteran of the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Alan Cloninger told The Charlotte Observer. She had worked as a corporal in the jail and was off duty when she was fatally injured.
The sheriff’s office tweeted a photograph of the deputy via social media, adding “Our hearts are broken” and saying the agency requested thoughts and prayers not only for the deputy’s family and friends but for her “brothers and sisters in uniform.”
Authorities said the family was requesting privacy and referred any questions to Rammell.
Self ran a private investigations business called Southeastern Loss Management, mostly working for companies to investigate employees’ wrongdoing.