Wendy's Victim Went Back For Child's Toy
Gunman Kills One, Injures Five Before Killing Self, Police Say
5:09 pm PST March 3, 2008
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A man killed during a random shooting at a West Palm Beach Wendy's restaurant was a fire-rescue lieutenant waiting in line to get a forgotten toy for his child, authorities said.
The victim, Rafael Vazquez, 42, was having lunch with his wife and child at the Wendy's at Cherry Road and Military Trail around 12:18 p.m. Monday when he was shot and killed by 60-year-old Alburn Edward Blake, police said.
Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office spokesman Paul Miller said that Vasquez had been a Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue employee since 2001 and had been promoted in January 2007 to lieutenant, TV-station WPBF is reporting.
Vazquez was about to leave the restaurant with his wife and daughter when he went back to the counter to get a forgotten toy, Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue Deputy Chief Steve Delai said. Delai said that's when Blake, who witnesses said was wearing a baseball cap and business suit, and was visibly shaking, reportedly walked out of the bathroom and shot Vazquez, killing him.
"The toy was missing in the bag, so he had actually gone back inside Wendy's to retrieve the toy that was supposed to be in the bag. We don't believe that he ever knew what was happening. It appears as though he was the first one shot with the first bullet and died immediately," Delai said.
Miller said Blake proceeded to "move from left to right," firing what is believed to be a 9 mm pistol at several other patrons inside the restaurant and hitting at least four others before shooting and killing himself.
Authorities said that the shooting appeared to be random and that Blake was not a former employee at the restaurant. No suicide note was found, police said. Blake, a West Palm Beach resident, was married but was not living with his wife, WPBF reported.
Vazquez, formerly a Town of Lake Park firefighter, was assigned to Rescue 28 at Station 28 in Royal Palm Beach. Vazquez is survived by his wife, an officer with Palm Springs Public Safety and their five children, ages 4-21. Services will be announced later this week.
A total of four others were shot during the incident, including a 65-year-old man and 62-year-old woman who were taken to Delray Medical Center in stable condition with non-life-threatening injuries, Miller said.
A mother and her 16-year-old daughter were also injured in the shooting. Miller said that the teen, a freshman at Lake Worth High School, was shot in the arm, and the mother, who was not shot, appears to have been injured while running away from the gunman. They are being treated at Good Samaritan Medical Center.
A 43-year-old man was taken to St. Mary's Medical Center in critical condition, Miller said.
Investigators are still searching for other witnesses who were inside the restaurant at the time of the shooting. Miller said several people fled the scene, some leaving their cars still running in the parking lot and drive-through.
Several lanes of Military Trail at Belvedere Road were closed while police investigated the scene.
A statement from the Wendy's corporate office detailed the company's condolences.
"This is a terrible and sad day for our restaurant and this community… because this is a senseless tragedy. Our deepest thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families," the statement read.
A Wendy's spokesman said that the restaurant is cooperating with investigators and that the store's security camera tapes have been turned over to authorities.
Police said the shooter's motive is still under investigation.