Durham, N.C. — A vice-squad officer and a suspect were injured in a shootout outside a Cracker Barrel restaurant, 3703 Hillsborough Road, off Interstate 85, in Durham Wednesday evening, authorities said.
Gunfire erupted after the vice-squad officer tracked a couple of men to the restaurant's parking lot during a narcotics investigation at about 7:30 p.m., said Lt. Stan Harris, of the Durham County Sheriff's Office. Bullets struck vice-squad officer Morial S. Whitaker and suspect Olvin Alexander Aranda Hernandez, Harris said.
“One officer was struck in the foot,” Harris said.
Paramedics transported the victims to Duke University Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.
Dozens of people were eating inside the restaurant at the time. None were injured.
“It was just something you see somewhere else besides here,” witness Tim Durham said.
Durham said he was standing across the street from where the shooting took place.
“I just heard a bunch of gunfire ... Everybody was running and shooting. It was crazy. It just happened so quick,” Durham said.
Hernandez, 24, of 1506 Bungalow Ave.; Victor Oscar Olguin-Bravo, 21, of 917 Virgie St.; and Richanel Sala Sala, 19, of 2816 Ross Road Apt. 10-G, were taken into custody and face drug trafficking charges. Authorities said they found 614 grams of cocaine on the men.
Hernandez is also expected to be charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, possession of a firearm by convicted felon, assault on a government official by firearm and armed in the terror of the public for firing a gun in the restaurant's parking lot.
Second officer-involved shooting in 24-hours in Durham
The Cracker Barrel incident made the second shooting involving a Durham law enforcement officer in 24 hours. A Durham man exchanged gunfire with police Tuesday night at Dearborn Drive and Ader Street.
Elliott Josiah Pierce, 26, of Durham, was a passenger in a car pulled over by police just after 10:30 p.m., police said.
Police said Pierce got out of the car and fired several shots at officers. Officers returned fire, hitting him in the abdomen and leg. The officers were not injured.
Pierce was being treated for his injuries Wednesday at Duke University Hospital.
He faces charges of assault with a deadly weapon on a law enforcement officer and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.
Police found the car, a Nissan Altima, abandoned a short distance away, but were still searching for the driver and a second passenger.
As is standard procedure when a law enforcement officer fires a weapon, the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave with pay and the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) will investigate.
Anyone with information on either incident is asked to call 919-560-4440, ext. 29350 or Crime Stoppers at 919-683-1200. Crime Stoppers pays cash rewards for information leading to arrests in felony cases and callers never have to identify themselves.