The Sunday lunch rush was underway at the Surf and Turf Lodge in Bessemer City, N.C., a restaurant about 30 miles west of Charlotte. Inside the eatery’s rustic interior of wooden plank walls, Roger Self, a former police officer turned private investigator, was eating appetizers with his family. Around noon, the 62-year-old got up from the table. The family believed he was just using the restroom, the Gaston Gazette later reported.
Moments later, waiter Brandon Wilson was heading to check on the table when a sound shattered the dining room.
“I saw a white Jeep just fly past my face,” Wilson told the Gazette. “It was so unreal. I saw chairs and tables and cups just flying everywhere. It just sounded like a tornado.”
With Self behind the wheel, the car blasted through the restaurant’s log cabin facade, punching into the heart of the building and colliding with the table where Self’s own family were sitting, police said. Through curtains of dust, patrons and staff saw some people still pinned beneath the wreckage. “I helped paramedics move tables off this dude, and I moved debris out of the way so they could get to him,” a busboy explained to WSOC.
On Sunday afternoon, police confirmed two were killed in the crash. But the deaths were not the result of an accident at the wheel or driving mishap, police said. They allege that Self intentionally drove his car into the building.
Self was taken into custody and charged with two counts of first-degree murder. According to WSOC, one of the fatalities was Self’s daughter, Katelyn Self, a 26-year-old deputy with the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office. The other victim has been identified as Amanda Self, Roger Self’s daughter-in-law who was an emergency room nurse and the mother of two, the station reported. Three others were injured, including Amanda Self’s 13-year-old daughter, according to the Gazette.
Roger Self has not filed a plea. No lawyer representing him could be located.
“He drove his car into the building, killing people, so that’s why we took him into custody immediately,” Bessemer City Police Chief Thomas Ellis Jr. told reporters at a brief news conference on Sunday afternoon. But authorities have offered little insight into why a father would run down his family members in such a dramatic fashion.
“This is a hard time,” Gaston County Sheriff Alan Cloninger admitted at the Sunday news conference. “All I would ask is for people to keep the family in your prayers, and also the sheriff’s office. Because we’re suffering a little bit right now.”
According to the Gaston Gazette, Self arrived at the restaurant with his family, including Katelyn Self; Amanda Self; her husband, Josh, a Gaston County Police Officer; Josh and Amanda’s 13-year-old daughter; and Roger Self’s wife, Diane. The family was beginning their meal when Roger Self left the table.
Self, however, allegedly returned behind the wheel of his Jeep.
“It was chaotic, dust everywhere,” a waiter recounted to the Gazette. “The woman died in my manager’s arms.”
Self joined the Gastonia Police Department in the 1970s, according to a 2017 profile in the Gazette. Eventually, he jumped into private investigations, specializing in loss prevention for stores and corporate clients. “My skill is learning how to gather information, getting someone to talk with me,” Self told the paper.
But in recent months, Self had been wrestling with mental illness, Austin Rammell, a pastor at Venture Church, told WSOC. A family friend for 16 years, he told the station Self was beset by anxiety, depression, and mental breakdowns. Sometimes he would go days without leaving his bed, Rammell said.
“He’s been taking precautions. He had all the guns removed from his house, so he was making steps that were rational steps.”
The family was aware of Self’s internal battles, according to Rammell.
“Family has been loving him through this,” the pastor said. “This was not a conscious act by their father and they know that.”