A person eating lunch was killed and a server was wounded Wednesday in a brazen daytime shooting inside a Vietnamese restaurant in Bloomington.
The suspect, a man police said was wearing a maroon hoodie and who they believe brought two weapons inside Cô Tu' at 8907 Penn Av. at about 1 p.m., was still at large Wednesday evening. Bloomington Police Chief Booker Hodges said investigators don't know a motive yet, but he vowed the shooter would be apprehended.
"We will find this person and we will lock them up, but I really feel bad for the victim because it's Thanksgiving," Hodges said at a news conference at Bloomington City Hall. "I mean, families are getting together in the restaurant eating, and this happens."
Hodges said the suspect displayed a weapon upon entering the restaurant the first time, but a handful of patrons pushed him back outside twice. The suspect was able to get in on his third attempt, Hodges said, at which point he fatally shot a 49-year-old man who was a frequent patron of the restaurant.
The victim, who has not been identified, was shot multiple times. The server, a 25-year-old man, was shot twice and taken to HCMC with noncritical injuries.
Hodges called the shooter "a cold-blooded killer" and urged the man to turn himself in. "Our detectives are going to keep looking, and we are going to lock you up."
In addition to the maroon hoodie, witnesses said the suspect was wearing purple surgical gloves. Witnesses told police he left on foot, but some witnesses reported seeing him get into a vehicle. Police found a gun in the restaurant but believe the man has another weapon.
The Bloomington shooting came in a week that saw a renewed burst of mass shootings nationwide, at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., and a Walmart in Chesapeake, Va. The shooting was Bloomington's first homicide this year.
The restaurant, which was formerly known as Oriental Jade, serves Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine. Reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, the managing chef, Mai Trinh, said she would have something to say Thursday or Friday about what happened.
Hodges said police would investigate whether either of the victims was targeted or what other motives might be involved. He said investigators would comb through security camera footage in the area.
The strip mall where the restaurant is located was busy at the time, according to Andy Knaeble, manager of nearby Instant Replay Sports.
"It surprises me there would be a shooting when it was so busy (at the strip mall)," Knaeble said. "I didn't hear any gunshots but saw when the cops started showing up."
The restaurant is part of a strip mall with about eight businesses. It's two doors down from another restaurant that was ambushed by robbers in June 2020, when the owner was shot and nearly lost his life.
In the 2020 incident, proprietor Kevan Tran was found by police just outside Penn Lake Roast Beef with gunshot wounds to his chest and a hand. Quick actions by officers at the scene saved his life and allowed him to resume running his business. Two men were convicted and are serving prison sentences.
After Wednesday's shooting, Tran posted a note on Facebook saying everyone at his restaurant is fine, but he was closing for the rest of the day and would reopen on Friday.
At Hodges' news conference, he was asked whether the restaurant patrons did the right thing by pushing the shooter out of the restaurant twice. He said he believes none of the patrons were armed.
"For each person, that's something they have got to decide," Hodges said. "I always personally lean on the side of fight. I mean, if you're going to come into a restaurant and you're going to try and pull a gun out, I'm going to do what I need to do. But I think that's a decision that each individual person might need to make."