Roger Self was “a faithful, church-going family man,” known for quoting the Bible, according to his hometown newspaper, The Gaston Gazette.
But that image was shattered at 12:04 p.m. Sunday, when he climbed into his Jeep and drove it through the door of a Bessemer City restaurant in North Carolina where his family was eating lunch.
Two died and at least two others were injured, report multiple media outlets.
It was a perfectly timed killing, when the Surf and Turf Lodge was packed with extended families just out of church services.
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But Self apparently sought only to target his own family.
He had been eating appetizers with them when he got up, stepped outside, then returned to the table minutes later behind the wheel of his Jeep, reported the Washington Post. Patrons told the Post the aftermath scene included seeing people pinned beneath the wreckage at the heart of the restaurant. One of the victims died in a restaurant manager’s arms, the Washington Post reported.
He specifically targeted the spot in the restaurant where his family was seated, reported the Gaston Gazette.
Family’s pastor: Dad’s mental illness to blame for ‘insane and evil’ crash into restaurant
The Observer’s news partner WBTV reported Roger Self made the reservation with the restaurant, and asked for that specific table. He then left the table, complaining of having a headache, the station reported.
The dead included Self’s 26-year-old daughter, Katelyn Tyler Self, an off-duty Gaston County deputy, according to police. The other victim was identified as Amanda Self, an emergency room nurse married to Roger Self’s son, Josh, according to WBTV. Josh Self was injured and remained in critical but stable condition Monday, the station reported.
Roger Self’s wife, Diana, was also among the injured and she remained in critical but stable condition Monday, reported WBTV.
The killing was labeled “bizarre” in a Gaston Gazette headline, and the newspaper blamed the incident on Self’s descent into depression and mental illness.
Dad arrested after ‘mass casualty’ crash into restaurant kills daughter
One witness told the Gazette Self stood by at the crime scene in handcuffs “repeatedly screaming that everybody was evil.” Self is now facing two charges of first degree murder, reports the Charlotte Observer’s news partner WBTV.
Reaction in the community has ranged from shock to outright denial. Self was a former police officer himself, and worked as a private investigator, reported the Washington Post.
Rumors had spread in the community in recent months that Self, who lived in Dallas, N.C., had changed, according to social media posts. There was even talk that Self was suffering from a brain tumor, according to multiple Facebook posts.
“This isn’t Roger!” posted Chad E. Clewis on Facebook.
“This man just snapped. He isn’t a murderer,” wrote Kathy Moose.
“I simply don’t understand,” posted Geoff Rhodes on Facebook.
Others on social media were less sympathetic.
“This man is sick. Put him under the jail. No excuses,” posted Lynn Renfroe on Facebook.
The family’s pastor, Austin Rammell, told WSOC that he had known Self 16 years and that Self had sought help in recent months for mental illness, including anxiety and depression.
Another family friend, long time Gaston County commissioner Tracy Philbeck, told the Gaston Gazette that he was also aware Self was battling mental illness.
“If I could have committed him, I would have committed him myself,” Philbeck told the Gazette. “He couldn’t sleep. He stopped eating.”
Roger Self ran a private investigations business, according to WBTV. The business, Southeastern Loss Management, opened in 1989 and mostly helped companies investigate employees’ wrongdoing, according to a Gaston Gazette profile written in 2017.
What prompted his reported descent into mental illness remained a mystery Monday, but many were second guessing what might have been done to stop the tragedy.
“This would be a lesson to us all,” posted Billy Ramsey on Facebook. “If we know someone in need of mental help, don’t be afraid to report them…Seems too many people knew of how severely depressed and disturbed he was.”
“This man…had progressed to the point of psychosis and delusions,” posted Tammy Brown Hodge on Facebook. “When and if the fog clears for him, no one will hurt more than he will himself.”
Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs