Thomas Burns, a disgruntled former dishwasher accused of fatally shooting Virginia's On King chef Shane Whiddon, has died, authorities confirmed Friday.
Burns, a 54-year-old Charleston resident, died at Palmetto Health Richland on Thursday from complications of a gunshot wound he suffered at the hands of a SWAT sharpshooter, the Charleston County Coroner's Office said.
He was charged with murder in connection to the shooting, which brought the eyes of the world to the Holy City as media organizations from India to the United Kingdom issued news alerts.
Had Burns stood trial and been convicted, he would have faced a mandatory minimum prison term of 30 years to life. It is not known whether prosecutors would have chosen to pursue the death penalty in the case.
The Aug. 24 shooting rocked Charleston's tightly knit restaurant community as Burns walked into the popular King Street restaurant around noon, locked the door and announced, "I am the new king of Charleston."
Burns ordered about 30 customers to get down, then to move to the back. Most escaped through side doors.
Some people were still inside when Whiddon, 37, was shot.
Dozens of police officers converged on the popular downtown area. When they got to the restaurant and broke the glass door to get inside, Interim Police Chief Jerome Taylor said they found Whiddon lying wounded. Whiddon and some survivors were taken out of the building.
Burns went upstairs. At least one other person was still inside.
Negotiators got in touch with Burns, the chief said.
SWAT team snipers, meanwhile, took high positions. Workers at a hotel construction site reported that marksmen scaled the scaffolding across Hutson Street from the restaurant.
Police sirens wailed in the busy commercial district and officers blanketed the downtown streets, a scene that served as a startling reminder of an episode two years earlier when Dylann Roof shot nine church worshippers to death in a race-motivated crime a quarter of a mile away.
Whiddon, the father of two young boys, was born in Brunswick, Ga., according to his obituary. Widely considered a talent on the rise within the burgeoning Charleston restaurant scene, he previously completed a number of apprenticeships in the culinary world and had a growing reputation as a chef and manager.
"My husband loved every single person he met," his wife, Shannon, said to those gathered at a memorial service days after the shooting. "He saw the potential that people had ... and if people made mistakes in their lives, he believed in second chances."