Police in South Carolina say one person is has been shot and several others have been taken hostage after a disgruntled employee opened fired inside a restaurant in downtown Charleston this afternoon.
Law enforcement officials are blocking King Street between Calhoun and Morris streets to vehicle and pedestrian traffic, according to a tweet sent out by police shortly after noon local time.
According to witnesses, it is believed the incident began unfolding at Virginia’s On King, a Southern food restaurant in the 400 block of King Street.
Active shooter: A former employee at Virginia’s On King in Charleston, South Carolina, reportedly opened fire during lunch, injuring at least one
A family were having lunch at the eatery when they tell the Charleston Post and Courier a middle-aged man emerged from the kitchen brandishing a loaded revolver and announced, ‘There’s a new boss in town.’
The gunman’s sudden appearance sent patrons fleeing for their lives out of the eatery. There were about 30 people having lunch at Virginia’s during the incident.
A tourist from Maryland and his son recounted a similar story, saying a black man in an apron walked through the door holding a small-caliber revolver, locked the door and said, ‘I am the new king of Charleston.’
Some described the person in question as a black man in his late 50s. One diner, Patsy Plant, told the paper the armed man looked like a ‘grandpa’ but had ‘a crazy look.’
During a press conference held this afternoon, Charles Franics, a spokesman for the Charleston Police Department, said officers who responded to the scene at 12.17pm located one shooting victim and had that person transported to a hospital.
Francis also said there are ‘a couple of hostages’ in the building.
Police vehicles are seen at the scene on King Street in Charleston after the shooting
Reports of an active shooter prompted a heavy police presence in the area and caused lockdowns at nearby businesses.
Heavily armed SWAT officers and a bomb squad also responded to the scene.
‘This was not an act of terrorism,’ Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg rushed to reassure the public. ‘This was not a hate crime. This was a disgruntled employee.’
Tecklenburg did not have the condition of the person shot, and said he didn’t know how many hostages remained inside the restaurant.
The restaurant is located a few blocks away from Emanuel AME church, where nine black members of a church were killed by a white man during a June 2015 Bible study. Dylann Roof was sentenced to death in the case.