Local News

Suspect shot by Durham officer is charged

Posted June 17, 2015 7:24 a.m. EDT
Updated June 17, 2015 7:47 p.m. EDT

— A 26-year-old man shot by a Durham police officer early Wednesday morning in what investigators described as a robbery attempt was charged with the crime Wednesday afternoon, the department said.

Dennis Lawrence Palm Jr. faces two counts of second-degree kidnapping, one count of attempted common-law robbery, two counts of assault on a female and two counts of communicating threats.

Officers responded to the McDonald’s on Tower Boulevard at about 4 a.m. after emergency dispatchers received a robbery report at the fast-food restaurant.

The restaurant’s lights were off when police arrived, but an employee at the drive thru window told officers that a man was inside, according to a recording of police radio traffic.

"I can see the female employee. She's standing here at the door, at the exit door coming out to the playground," an unidentified officer said in the recording. "There is a unknown suspect that is crouched down behind here where the trash cans are. She can see us. The suspect has not shown himself yet."

The suspect, later identified as Palm, then went behind the restaurant's counter, the officer said.

Officers entered the restaurant and saw Palm with his arm around the neck of a female employee, Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said. Palm repeatedly threatened to kill the woman, Lopez said, and after a brief standoff, Sgt. Glen Price fired one shot, striking the man in the face.

"At this point we're investigating whether (Palm) was armed," Lopez said. "Every indication is that he was going to harm and was capable of killing the victim."

Palm was conscious and alert when he was hospitalized with injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening, police said. An update on his condition was not available Wednesday afternoon.

No one else inside the restaurant was injured. Detectives interviewed the woman who was held by Palm, said Lopez, who added that it was not immediately known whether she knew the suspect.

Price has been placed on administrative leave with pay, which is standard in officer-involved shootings.

"This is a real serious example of what officers have to go through on a daily basis and the decisions they have to make within seconds that impact the lives of others," Lopez said.

Keith Manning, the owner-operator of the McDonald's, said the restaurant is working closely with police to "ensure that they have everything then need in their investigation."

"The safety and care of our people is my organization's highest priority,” Manning said in a statement. “We are so grateful that the restaurant employees are OK and our primary concern now is to provide them with resources to help them cope with what they've experienced.”

The shooting is being investigated by the State Bureau of Investigation and Durham police’s Professional Standards and Criminal Investigations divisions.

The restaurant was scheduled to reopen by 6 p.m. Wednesday.