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Pastor: Depression preceded fatal crash into restaurant


BESSEMER CITY, N.C. — A North Carolina man accused of crashing a car into a restaurant table full of loved ones, killing two, had suffered for weeks with depression and previously asked his family to take his guns away, his pastor says.

Roger Self faces two counts of first-degree murder after authorities say he got into the sport utility vehicle during a family meal and then drove it at high speed into the restaurant on Sunday. The crash killed his daughter and daughter-in-law and critically injured two other relatives seated at the table near a window.

"His family and close friends have intensely laboured to try and get Roger help. We all feel a level of guilt," said the Rev. Austin Rammell of Venture Church in Dallas, North Carolina.

The pastor, who is a close family friend, said Self opened up about his problems about 10 weeks ago, when he asked his son to take his guns away from him. Self has been treated for depression and anxiety that seemed to become more intense in the weeks since.

The crash sent stunned patrons scrambling Sunday afternoon at the Surf and Turf Lodge, about 30 miles (50 kilometres) west of Charlotte.

Self was immediately arrested. Shackled and wearing an orange jumpsuit at a hearing Monday, he showed little emotion as he asked for a court-appointed attorney. He was ordered jailed without bond on two charges of first-degree murder.

Self's daughter, Katelyn Self, a deputy with the Gaston County Sheriff's Office, and his daughter-in-law, Amanda Self, an emergency room nurse, were killed when the car rammed into the restaurant. Amanda Self was married to Roger Self's son, Gaston County Police Officer Josh Self.

Josh Self and Roger Self's wife, Diane, were in critical but stable condition Monday, said Rammell, who has been in close contact with the family. A 13-year-old granddaughter of Self's was treated and released from the hospital, police said.

At a news conference Monday, officials with the Bessemer Police Department declined to elaborate on Self's mental health. But police spokesman Rob Tufano said evidence gathered so far shows the crash was intentional.

"It is abundantly clear that this was not an accident; that this was something Mr. Self had intentionally done," Tufano said.

Katelyn Self had arranged Sunday's after-church lunch, inviting her fiance and his parents as well, because she was hoping that her father would feel better if he were surrounded by family, Rammell said. They had ordered drinks and appetizers and were talking and laughing after being seated at a table near the window.

The pastor said the family wasn't initially concerned when he got up, figuring he may have been suffering from anxiety.

"They began noticing his car out in the parking lot had circled. And the next thing you know he came through the window," Rammell said.

The pastor said Self had seen a psychiatrist and family doctor but hadn't been hospitalized. Rammell said Self told him he was taking medicine for depression and anxiety, but he was becoming particularly unstable over the weekend.

Katelyn Self, 26, was a four-year veteran of the Gaston County Sheriff's Office, the sheriff said in a news release. She had worked as a corporal in the jail and was off duty when she was fatally injured.

Roger Self, a former law enforcement officer, ran a private investigations business called Southeastern Loss Management, mostly working for companies to investigate employees' wrongdoing. Rammell said the business had been going through an unspecified "transition" that required the help of some friends, but he didn't elaborate.

Rammell, whose church is listed in a directory of the Southern Baptist Convention, said Self had been active for decades in a Baptist congregation that grew into Venture Church. He said Self had served as a volunteer youth minister to hundreds of people.

The Associated Press

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