‘We've locked the doors': Employees called 911 before officer shot man outside restaurant

GASTONIA, N.C. — One person is in the hospital after being shot by a police officer late Tuesday night at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Gastonia, police said.

The shooting happened just after 10 p.m. on Cox Road, right off Interstate 85. The restaurant is in a busy shopping center with several stores and hotels nearby.

Officers were first called to the restaurant because of a report of a "subject with a weapon." According to the Gastonia Police Department, that person was shot by a responding officer.

Gaston County Emergency Medical Services transported 22-year-old James Matthew Roberts Jr. who was shot with serious injuries.

The officer involved was not injured, according to the Gastonia Police Department.

The Gaston County district attorney said the shooting was justified.

Witnesses said quick-thinking by customers, employees and police may have kept other people from getting hurt.

A customer told Channel 9 he had just finished eating, walked out the front door and saw the man carrying a gun.

“He was parked right here, dead in front of the doors. I came up," customer Keith Collins said.

Collins walked up to the man, who was inside a car.

"He stuck the gun in this mouth and that's when I start screaming, ‘Don't, don't, don't, don't,’” Collins said. “I thought he was gonna pull the trigger. I ran over and buried my head."

Collins backed away from the man. The customer pushed his son and friend back inside the restaurant and saw an employee was already on the phone with 911.

"I said, ‘Lock these doors. Lock these doors. The guy's got a gun. He's gonna kill himself," Collins said.

Employees who called 911 weren't letting anyone leave the restaurant.

"I don't know if he's going to shoot himself or shoot someone," one 911 caller said. "He's trying to commit suicide. Someone needs to get over here now."

(Listen to the 911 calls below)

"He's sitting in his car crying. I don't know what he has on," a caller can be heard saying. "When I walked up on him, I asked did he want to have a conversation. He said 'no' and he had the gun to his chest."

An employee locked the doors of the restaurant and told everyone to stay inside.

Collins said he ran into Roberts' sister, who said she and her brother had just been inside the restaurant together.

“She said he's upset he just lost a friend,” Collins said. “He got up, (threw) his wallet and said he was gonna go get his gun, shoot me and shoot this restaurant up.”

One caller tried to calm Roberts' sister and can be heard saying, "You can relax here. Hold my hand, here. You can relax, OK?"

Collins said he saw Roberts moving toward the locked front door.

"The guy got out of the car, holding the gun and started trying to get in the door,” Collins said.

The DA told Channel 9 police arrived and found Roberts in the car with a gun, which he refused to drop.

The DA said Roberts got out of the car with the gun and told the officer repeatedly, "I'm going to kill you."

Roberts raised his gun and that's when Gastonia police Officer Maurice Taylor III shot Roberts, the DA said.

Taylor is on paid leave, which is standard.

Another customer described what happened at the restaurant.

"This guy and girl were arguing. The guy said, ‘If you don't do this I'm gonna go and get gun and come back and shoot this place up,” customer Cameron Bird said. “The girl locked herself in the bathroom. All employees were barricading the door.”

PHOTO: @ColemanReports

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The shopping complex also includes Ruby Tuesday’s and Olive Garden restaurants, as well as a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant.

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is assisting the police department in the investigation.