BILOXI, Mississippi — She was shot in the head because she asked somebody not to smoke.
The 52-year-old Waffle House server was just doing her job and enforcing the no smoking policy at the franchise in the 2400 block of U.S. 90 when she was shot by a customer she told to put out a cigarette.
She had already given eight years of her life to the business as one of their beloved servers.
And she spent some of the last moments of her life asking customers if they had enjoyed their Thanksgiving holiday.
“Our associates are in shock over the whole incident,” said Pat Warner, vice president of Waffle House’s corporate office in Atlanta. “It’s a senseless tragedy. We lost a very good associate who was loved by her co-workers and her customers. I’ve been with Waffle House for 16 years and don’t recall anything like this. You really can’t describe how you feel.”
Biloxi police Sgt. Donnie Dobbs said the customer, Johnny Max Mount, 45, is accused of fatally shooting her around 1 a.m. Friday after he fired up a cigarette inside the business. Police said Mount was still inside the restaurant when police believe he pulled out a 9 mm handgun and shot the woman. She died a short time later at Merit Health Biloxi. She had a single gunshot wound to her head.
Biloxi police arrested Mount as he was walking out of the restaurant. They booked him into the Harrison County jail on a charge of first-degree murder. Justice Court Judge Albert Fountain set his bond at $2 million.
Warner said the Waffle House where the woman worked was smoke-free. Some of the stores in the restaurant chain do allow smoking.
However, Waffle House prohibits firearms inside their businesses unless the customer works in a law enforcement field or is in the military, Warner said.
Corporate personnel from Waffle House came to Biloxi as soon as they learned of the shooting, he said.
He said they are helping out at the franchise so distraught employees could stay home if they wished. Some, he said, chose to come in on their own. The franchise closed immediately after the shooting while Biloxi police investigated the crime, but then reopened.
“We have lined up some grief counseling for the employees as well,” Warner said. “We are going to help the employees any way we can. We are giving them space right now.”
The name of the waitress has not been released pending notification of her next of kin.
Customer Richard Bonin said she served him and his two friends just before the shooting.
“I was just in shock when I found out,” Bonin said. “It gave me the chills. It’s just a weird feeling to think we might have been her last customers.”
Bonin said he often goes to that Waffle House franchise because “it’s my favorite.”
He said she served him and his friends when they stopped in to eat shortly before midnight.
“She was so friendly,” he said. “She sat down and talked to us. It wasn’t too busy then, just a few more people in booths.”
She asked Bonin and his friends if they were having a good Thanksgiving. “She told us she was tired, but she was making the whole conversation about us,” he said.
Now, he said, he’s wondering if they were among her last customers.
“I just can’t believe this,” he said. “She was honestly so nice.”
Mount has no felony record, but he does have misdemeanor violations. People lit up Twitter and Facebook on Friday asking about him, wondering what could have set him off or what the issue was. Was it all about smoking?
Biloxi Police Chief John Miller said the investigation is continuing, but had a few thoughts about what occurred.
“I just don’t understand why somebody would be so upset over a cigarette,” he said. “Some stuff like this just defeats logic.”
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