Church packed to remember heroic cook killed during Steak 'n Shake robbery

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Darnell Harris was remembered Tuesday for saving a co-worker's life by sacrificing his own during a robbery and shooting at a south Charlotte Steak n' Shake.

Harris’s family asked for community support by inviting the public to the funeral.

The church was so packed that those wanting to pay their respects had to park on the grass.

Harris’s family told Channel 9 they wanted to see a true celebration of life for the beloved cook. His friends said he was loving and kind by nature.

Relatives said Harris was a natural protector and lived his life thinking of others.

That’s what he did a week ago when he stepped between a gunman and another employee during an armed robbery at the restaurant on South Boulevard.

There’s been an outpouring of support for Harris’s family.

The Mothers of Murdered Offspring held a candlelight service for Harris Monday night. His brother Brendan Ruffin said he died a hero.

"My brother loved the people that was there," Ruffin said. "He would've been upset if anybody else would have probably got hurt."

Charlotte City Councilman Tariq Bokhari started a GoFundMe for Harris' family that has reached more than $14,000 and it will be matched dollar for dollar by the CEO of Lending Tree.

"For a hero who stepped up to protect his co-workers from a violent, repeat offender who’s been back on the street since January, our hearts are just breaking for Darnell Harris and his family," Bokhari said.

Harris' funeral service was held at New Bethel Church of God in Christ on Little Rock Road.

Doh and Murphy

(Eddie Doh, Kiara Murphy)

Police said 26-year-old Kiara Monique Murphy was driving 30-year-old Doh and dropped him off at the restaurant. Officers said Murphy was not there at the time of the shooting. She was arrested Wednesday.

Investigators said Doh shot and killed 48-year-old Harris inside the Steak 'n Shake. Harris was working as a cook at the south Charlotte restaurant.

The shooting happened right around lunchtime.

[PAST COVERAGE: Police release names of victims, robber in deadly Steak 'n Shake shooting]

It was also around lunchtime on July 3 when Doh robbed the East Coast Wings in Northlake, according to police.

Police said Murphy dropped Doh off there as well. They said Doh then stormed into the restaurant with a gun and stole cash.

Police said customers and employees were inside at the time but that no one was hurt.

[PAST COVERAGE: Masked man with gun robs restaurant near Northlake Mall, police say]

Sadly, that was not the case Tuesday at Steak 'n Shake. Harris died in the shooting and police said Doh also shot 53-year-old Robert Carpenter Jr., a customer at the restaurant.

Harris’ brother, Brendan Ruffin, spoke at a news conference with police Thursday morning.

“When I saw it coming breaking news and I saw it was his store, and it was, like, it instantly came in my body and I said, ‘Man, please don’t let my brother be the one,'” Ruffin said.

Ruffin said he's cried more in the last two days than he had in five years.

Harris was the big brother who always looked out for him. Now he has to find a way to move past the tears.

“The family's going to do good, because we know he's in a better place, off an act that should never have been caused,” Ruffin said.

Witnesses told Channel 9 Harris was killed when he stepped in between another employee and Doh.

Darnell Harris

(Darnell Harris)

“He jumped in front of her to protect her, and he got killed instead of her,” friend Heidi Sailor said.

“Are you surprised he would do that?” Channel 9 reporter Mark Becker asked.

“No, he would've done that for anybody. He was just that type of guy,” Sailor said.

Jerry Johnson had worked with Harris for several years. Her voice broke as she spoke of the man who shared so much with others.

“It hurts. He was really humble, like, that person killed the wrong person,” Johnson said.

Some of Harris‘ coworkers attached balloons to a small memorial Tuesday afternoon outside Steak 'n Shake.

“He's going to be missed greatly. He was a great man,” Sailor said.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help Harris' family.

The United Neighborhoods of Charlotte held hands and stood in prayer for Harris Wednesday night at the Steak ‘n Shake.

Members of the organization said Harris was killed as a result of a failed justice system.

Doh was released from prison in January after serving time in connection with a 2011 murder.

"I'm asking that our city do a better job with returning citizens to prevent acts like this, to get ahead of acts like this because this is just the beginning," member Gemini Boyd said.

CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said thoughts and prayers aren't enough anymore.

“It’s time we move beyond having people like Mr. Harris sacrifice his life because of a violent offender who is not being held fully accountable,” Putney said.

Doh was injured in a shootout with Pineville police officers.

Both he and Carpenter are still in the hospital.