Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Suspected Gunman Had History of Violence, Mental Illness

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Suspected Gunman Had History of Violence, Mental Illness

Article excerpt

CHARLESTON, S.C. * The man who police say killed a Charleston chef inside a restaurant filled with tourists had been convicted of violent crimes at least twice since the 1980s and struggled with mental illness, according to legal records.

Thomas Demetrius Burns, 53, remained hospitalized Friday, the day after he was shot by police to end a hostage standoff that followed the slaying at Virginia's, a restaurant on a busy street of shops and upscale eateries in downtown Charleston.

Authorities released his name Friday. Charleston police say Burns marched into the restaurant with a gun at lunchtime Thursday and killed Virginia's 37-year-old executive chef, Shane Whiddon. Authorities and one of the restaurant's owners have said the gunman had been fired from his job as a dishwasher at the restaurant.

One Virginia's customer, Peter Siegert IV of Galesville, Md., said a man wearing an apron and a ball cap came into the dining room and announced: "There's a new boss in town." Siegert said the man held a revolver at his side.

The gunman ordered patrons to get on the floor and crawl toward the back of the restaurant, Siegert said, and they fled through rear exits as he shouted "get out!" Three hours later, police freed one hostage who also wasn't injured.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenberg said Thursday the gunman appeared to have a history of mental illness. A court document from April 2010 appears to confirm that. Burns was facing drug charges at the time and a circuit court judge ordered a mental evaluation.

"The defendant has schizophrenia and repeatedly accuses defense counsel of working against him," Judge Kristi Lea Harrington wrote in her order. She gave no further details.

Burns remained Friday at the Medical University of South Carolina, under the guard of sheriff's deputies. Charleston County sheriff's spokesman Maj. …

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