Hickory police say a serial robber struck another restaurant early Wednesday, and this time he fired his weapon.
Police said a gunman approached workers as they were leaving the Burger King on Springs Road about 1 a.m. He forced the workers back inside the restaurant and demanded money from the safe.
A scuffle ensued after one of the workers retrieved the money and dropped it on the floor. Police said the robber kicked at the worker and fired his gun into the ceiling.
Officers released surveillance photos of the man, who was wearing black shoes with white soles and a jacket. He is described as a skinny white man, 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighing between 145 and 160 pounds. Investigators canvassed homes near the restaurant to ask people if they heard or saw anything during the early morning hours.
Police believe the robber is the same man responsible for three other restaurant robberies in the last week, and as many as seven robberies in the Hickory area over the last month. All of the robberies have occurred near closing time.
Police said someone has robbed this Burger King three times, surprising employees as they head to their cars at closing time and forcing them back inside at gunpoint. The cases are nearly identical to what happened at four other restaurants in the area -- Pancho Villa, Waffle House, Wendy's and Tripp's.
"At nighttime, we don't allow employees to open the door in the back. Also we tell all employees to park their car near the store, so they don't have to walk at night alone," said Subway owner Shanjay Patel.
No one was hurt at the Burger King, but police aren't taking any chances -- they're setting up a 30-foot surveillance tower right across the street.
"We're working 24 hours, seven days a week trying to find this guy so there is always going to be somebody out looking for him," said Vidal Sipe with Hickory Police.