Sheriff: Hot water issue likely kept shooter from entering Golden Corral

February 23, 2019
Stephen Denning (Photo: via Family)

A hot water issue at a Golden Corral likely kept a shooter from gaining entrance to the restaurant after he opened fire at a nearby Walgreens last week, injuring two people, according to the Wake County Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities said Stephen Denning, 60, of Garner, opened fire at the pharmacy counter inside the Walgreens at 1116 U.S. Highway 70 on Feb. 14 around 10 a.m. Officials said he had apparently experienced some type of issue with his medication.

Denning fled from the scene and ended up at a nearby Golden Corral, where he was confronted by a Wake County sheriff’s deputy.

Officials on Thursday told WRAL News that, since it had no hot water, the Golden Corral was closed when Denning approached it. The locked door likely kept Denning from getting inside and injuring the 10 employees who were working at the time.

Denning shot pharmacy manager Sarah Wright, 31, and Brandon Gordon, 33, both of Clayton, at the Walgreens. Both were taken to WakeMed for medical treatment, but due to privacy laws, WRAL does not have an update to their condition.

One of the workers called 911 after the shooting inside the drugstore.

“I’ve been shot at Walgreens,” the caller said. “A customer shot me in the pharmacy...an angry customer shot me...I know the customer.”

Denning lives within walking distance of the Walgreens. One neighbor said it would be hard to believe that Denning committed the crimes.

“They might even have the wrong guy because it just doesn’t sound like him, nothing. It is that out of character,” Corey Darden said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with our team members who were seriously injured this morning,” the statement said. “We are thankful to the first responders as well as the emergency medical staff at WakeMed hospital where our team members are being treated.”

Denning’s brother spoke to WRAL News and said the family was shocked when they heard the news.

“For him to be angry (and) going to get some medicine, I just can’t put it together,” John Denning said, adding that his brother is a regular church-goer.

“We talked, probably 30 minutes (on Wednesday)” and there were no signs of anything,” his brother said. “I have no idea” what prompted this.

He had kind words for the victims.

“My hearts and my prayers go out to them because it’s a tragedy for them as well,” John Denning said. “We’ve got three families going through some tragedy right now.”