When the bullet whizzed past her, Hannah Reed-Vargason of Sharpsburg, Md. had just sat down to celebrate her 26th year of life at a special birthday outing, with her mother and grandmother.
“Three generations survived lunch,” she would say later.
Dazed and stinging from what felt like a small explosion, the trio huddled together outside of Domestic’s main entrance, awaiting some explanation from police.
“This is really surprising here,” said 71-year-old Juanita Reed, staring up at the just evacuated restaurant.
“It’s the last thing you would expect in Shepherdstown,” seconded Natoma Reed-Vargason, Hannah’s mother.
As onlookers gathered on main street, Shepherd University police, members of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department and the Shepherdstown Police Department, all responded to a dispatch call reporting shots fired at the downtown restaurant Sunday afternoon.
As it would turn out, one shot was fired from the building’s top level apartment, following what is characterized as a “threatening,” exchange between a building resident and visitor.
As reported in the official Shepherdstown Police Department press release, “The suspect entered an apartment in the 100 block of East German St. in Shepherdstown. The suspect encountered one of the residents living there and stated he was looking for another resident that lives there. The suspect then produced a handgun. The resident retreated to his room as the suspect fired a shot that went through the floor and into the restaurant below. The bullet lodged in the wall near a table of patrons.”
“We thought it was just a light bulb exploding,” Hannah Reed-Vargason said as she took account of the event.
Covered in debris, but finding no major physical injuries, the three women along with a group of at least a dozen other patrons, and restaurant staff, all fled the restaurant unharmed that day.
Police, who arrived within moments of the event, searched for a suspect who had already fled the scene.
The suspect, known as “Eli,” was described as a 20 to 25-year-old, heavy-set white male, in the victim’s statement to police.
According to Shepherdstown Police Chief David Ransom, “Eli,” was identified and questioned shortly following the violent incident, with the assistance of tips from the community.
“The community was extremely helpful,” he said.
Though “Eli” has not yet been detained, Chief Ransom said arrest warrants are pending in the case, as the investigation continues.
Following the event Sunday afternoon, Domestic was again the scene of a crime early Monday morning when at approximately 12 a.m., suspect Sean Michael Riley, allegedly burglarized and then vandalized the restaurant’s window front.
First smashing, the restaurant’s front window and later tagging the building and window with the quote, “Ban races, not faces,” Riley is said to have unlawfully entered the building through a side door, before stealing a painting and antique crochet set– both of which have been recovered.
On Tuesday, Riley, a 30-year-old Shepherdstown resident, was arrested in connection with the incidents and charged with burglary, petit larceny and destruction of property.
There is not believed to be any connection between these events and the shooting Sunday according to police.
By Tuesday morning, Domestic had reopened for business as usual.