2018-03-14 / Front Page

One Killed, Three Injured In Shooting

by Terry Toole

Scene of shooting incident in Hurtsboro, AL last Wednesday. Scene of shooting incident in Hurtsboro, AL last Wednesday. As I was drinking coffee with the boys at Hardee’s last week, a phone call came in from a friend, Pat Bush, from another state, "Have you seen CBS News about the shooting/killing in Hurtsboro, AL?"

I had to admit, “I don't watch CBS News. What happened?”

Pat reminded me that artist, Cheryl Harden painted two of the Colquitt murals that helped make Colquitt Georgia's First Mural City. Cheryl painted Summer In The Swamp on The New Life Learning Center and Nothing But A Will on the Colquitt Fire Department building. Multiple news reports stated the following about a shooting that occurred last Wednesday in an Alabama restaurant:

An Alabama business owner was killed and three others were injured early Wednesday morning after a man allegedly armed with a .22 caliber rifle began shooting in a restaurant, authorities said.

Suspected shooter, Walter Frank Thomas charged. Suspected shooter, Walter Frank Thomas charged. The suspect walked into the City Grill, located in Hurtsboro, and called out the owner, Donny Hughes, 69, by name, Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said. Once Hughes appeared, the shooter reportedly fired his weapon several times, ultimately killing him.

“The offender walked in, yelled out a name, and at that point, started firing off rounds,” Taylor said during a news conference, according to The Opelika-Auburn News.

Don Hughes was killed when a man, armed with a .22 long rifle, entered the restaurant, Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said during a press conference.

About eight to 10 patrons were eating breakfast in the restaurant at 6:30 a.m. Eastern time, 5:30 Central, when the shooting occurred.

“The offender walked in, yelled out a name, and at that point, started firing off rounds,” Taylor said.

Hughes, whose family opened the restaurant in the early 1950s, was killed in the shooting. Injured in the attack were three other Hurtsboro men, John Carroll Williams (age 74), Roy Donald Johnson (70), and John William Harden (74). All three were treated for gunshot wounds.

“There were several rounds fired in the café,” the sheriff said. “We have worked the scene and recovered many, many shell casings. So we’ll get to the number of that later. But right now, I don’t want to discuss the number of shots that any of my victims have received.”

Hurtsboro is approximately 30 miles south of Opelika, with a population of 593, according to the 2016 census.

Later in the afternoon, the Russell County Sheriff’s Office issued a news release, identifying the alleged shooter as Walter Frank Thomas, 64, of Hurtsboro. Thomas was arrested and charged with murder and three counts of attempted murder.

At a morning news conference, Taylor had refused to release the name of the suspect, citing publicity and “a copycat situation” as a possible cause of escalating numbers of public shootings, in his opinion.

The suspect then allegedly fired at patrons who were having breakfast in the restaurant and struck and wounded three of them, the sheriff told Fox News. Two victims remain in the hospital – one is in critical condition in the intensive care unit, while the other is in stable condition following surgery, he said. Another individual reportedly received a flesh wound but was treated and has since been released.

An Alabama man reportedly opened fire at a restaurant in Hurtsboro, Alabama, killing one man and injuring three others.

One of the customers that was shot several times was Bill Harden, husband of Cheryl Harden. Bill was reported in critical condition at the hospital.

After the violent incident, the suspect retreated to his home a few blocks away, Taylor said. Police set up a perimeter around the area and the sheriff was reportedly able to reach the suspect on his cell phone. He surrendered to authorities, the sheriff said.

"I spoke to him, advised him to come out of the house with his hands where we could see them, and he complied and was taken into custody with no incident," Taylor said, according to The Opelika-Auburn News.

A search team cleared the house, Taylor told Fox News, and recovered the weapon and ammunition that matched what had been used in the restaurant shooting.

The Russell County Sheriff's Office identified the suspect as Walter Frank Thomas, 64. He was charged with one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder, the sheriff said.

No official motive was released. The sheriff told Fox News the suspect had mental issues, but did not elaborate.

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