ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – People inside the St. John’s Applebee’s on St. Charles Rock Road reported that something was off with the man who would become a shooter.
Police said the suspect was inside the restaurant sitting near two of his soon-to-be victims. He then left and later returned to the restaurant, brushed up against a waitress, and reportedly said something like, “It’s about to get real.”
The suspected shooter, Courtney D. Washington, faces six felony counts including first-degree murder. Washington reportedly shot and killed a 46-year-old mother of two Kimberly Ratliff-Penton, walked away, then turned back around to shoot Penton’s friend, Lakesha Finch.
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell, who responded to the scene of the murder, described the scene as “nothing less than horrifying.”
Bell said there’s no indication suspect Washington knew any of his victims and prosecutors do not know the shooter’s motive.
“Hopefully, we can answer that sometime in the future, but as you know in these kind of cases, we may never know,” he said.
St. John Police Chief Robert Connell said witnesses reported Washington was calm – walking right up to the booth where he shot Penton and Finch. Then he reportedly walked to the other side of the restaurant where he saw Kinloch firefighter Arlydia Bufford.
“She was wearing a Kinloch Fire Department logo and had the fire department emblem on her shirt and she was also wearing her firefighter training pants and at that point the suspect turned the weapon onto Arlydia, where he fired one shot,” Chief Connell said.
At that point, witnesses said that the suspect just calmly walked out of the restaurant. Chief Connell added that “…he walked over to his vehicle, and calmly drove off – didn’t drive erratically just drove off calmly.”
The chief added that the suspect drove off in a car that did not belong to him.
“He drove to an area where his own vehicle was at,” Connell said.
Bell would not comment on whether they believed that meant Washington planned the shooting.
Kinloch Fire Chief Kevin Stewart said Bufford is only alive because of a fire captain who was there that night and two officers who arrived quickly. One officer applied a tourniquet and drove her to the hospital along with the fire captain.
“There is no doubt in my mind the acts of those individuals saved her life and gave her the fighting chance that she has at this moment,” Stewart said.
Bell added: “To Lakesha Finch and Arlydia Bufford, if you’re listening, keep fighting and we’ll keep praying for you.”