COLUMBUS (AP) — From the front door, the man with the machete didn’t have a straight path to people in the booths at the small suburban restaurant. He stepped by the welcoming greeting on the front glass, past the half-wall entryway divider and the display case of kataifi and other Mediterranean pastries.
Immediately, police said, he started swinging.
“There was no rhyme or reason as to who he was going after,” said Sgt. Rich Weiner, a Columbus police spokesman.
By the time it was over, four people were wounded and the attacker was dead, shot by police in a confrontation a few miles away. No officers were hurt.
It’s unclear what motivated the Thursday evening attack. Columbus police confirmed they’re working with federal authorities on the investigation but wouldn’t give further details.
They credited the restaurant’s employees and patrons with acting quickly and observantly to fend off the man and help authorities catch him. Some threw chairs at the attacker, who’d been there about a half-hour earlier but left after a conversation with an employee, and someone scuffled with the man before he fled in a car, Weiner said. Several people called 911.
“A gentleman came in with a machete and started hacking at people,” one male witness said.
A woman said the attacker “just started running through the restaurant.” She said she ran to a nearby fast-food restaurant with her two children and hid in a bathroom there.
Minutes later, another caller reported that he’d been hit by a car in the area and that “a long weapon flew up in the air after he hit us.”
Police said witnesses at the restaurant had great descriptions of the suspect’s vehicle and a bit of video that provided partial license plate information. That helped authorities track down and confront the man near the large Easton Town Center shopping complex. The suspect, who had the machete in one hand and a knife in the other, was fatally shot by police after officers unsuccessfully tried to use a stun gun to stop him and he lunged, Weiner said.
Police said the injured victims were treated at Grant Medical Center, with one taken in critical condition, two in stable condition, and a fourth who took himself there. A spokeswoman said Friday that the hospital had no information to release about them.
Police haven’t shared their names or identified the man who was killed.
Twelve hours after the attack, the police tape and cruisers were gone outside the closed restaurant, tucked between a cellphone store and a beer shop in a small strip mall. Overturned dining chairs and dark-stained pieces of paper towels and cloth littered the floor.
Next to the door, under the glow of a neon sign advertising gyros, remained the printed sign with the Arabic greeting: “Ahlan Wa Sahlan.” Or, roughly, “You are welcome to our place.”
Associated Press writers Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus and Amir Bibawy in New York contributed to this report.