In 2010, judge ordered mental evaluation for Thomas Demetrius Burns, suspected King Street shooter

Suspect has long line of criminal behavior

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Thomas Demetrius Burns - CHARLESTON COUNTY DETENTION CENTER
  • Charleston County Detention Center
  • Thomas Demetrius Burns
In 2010, Thomas Demetrius Burns, the man identified by police as the main suspect in Thursday's fatal shooting at Virginia's on King, was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation while facing drug charges.

Burns was shot and wounded following an hours long standoff Thursday. Described by police and Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg as a "disgruntled employee" of the King street restaurant, Burns reportedly entered Virginia's shortly after noon and opened fire, fatally wounding 37-year-old Executive Chef Anthony Shane Whiddon. As diners fled the restaurant, the scene turned into a hostage situation, as SWAT teams and emergency responders positioned themselves around the building.

The standoff ended after several hours when members SWAT entered Virginia's and opened fire. According to police, the gunman was wounded and taken to University Hospital where he was listed in critical condition.

Leading up to the conclusion of Thursday's standoff, Mayor Tecklenburg described the disgruntled gunman as having some form of mental condition. A look at Burns' past criminal history in Charleston County shows a long series of arrests for shoplifting, disorderly conduct, public intoxication, drug possession, and assault with a deadly weapon.

"The defendant has schizophrenia and repeatedly accuses defense counsel of working against him," wrote the Circuit Court judge in April 2010, as Burns faced charges of attempting to sell heroin to an undercover officer. Court records show that Burns ultimately pled guilty to those charges in July 2010.

In May 2011, Burns faced charges for armed robbery while in possession of a deadly weapon. While in the area of 468 King St., Burns is said to have take possession of a victim's cell phone. An altercation began as Burns was confronted by the victim, and according to police, Burns then sliced the victim's face with a sharp object before fleeing the scene on a bicycle. 
Law enforcement officers work the scene around Virginia's on King on Thursday, August 24 - DUSTIN WATERS
  • Dustin Waters
  • Law enforcement officers work the scene around Virginia's on King on Thursday, August 24
"The victim did receive severe damage to the facial area from the cutting," reads a 2011 court affidavit from an officer. The victim was said to have required numerous stitches for the laceration that extended from just under the victim's left eye to the corner of his mouth completely through the victim's lip.

Court documents from that trial state that Burns, 47 years old at the time, was unemployed and had previous incidents of failing to appear in court. Court records show that Burns pled guilty to charges of armed robbery and assault and battery. Burns was released from Al Cannon Detention Center on June 25, 2012 and was given credit for time served.

In the years following those charges, Burns turned to petty theft. In July 2015, he was charged with the theft of a bicycle. That November, Burns was arrested once again for shoplifting pretzel sticks from the Exxon station at 420 Meeting St. In January, he pled guilty to the shoplifting charges for $1.98 worth of snacks.

Burns now sits accused of murder.


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