Diners’ quick response helped cops find restaurant attacker

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Quick observations by employees and patrons witnessing an apparently random machete attack on diners at a restaurant helped authorities track down the fleeing suspect, who was fatally shot in a confrontation with officers a few miles away, police said.

Witnesses at the Mediterranean restaurant in northeast Columbus gave a great description of the white getaway car and even took video that provided partial information on the license plate, Columbus police spokesman Sgt. Rich Weiner said.

An officer working special duty nearby at the large Easton Town Center shopping complex spotted the vehicle, and officers confronted the man, who got out of the car holding a machete in one hand and a knife in the other, Weiner said. Police tried unsuccessfully to use a stun gun on him, then shot him when he lunged at them, he said. No officers were hurt.

It’s unclear what motivated the Thursday evening attack at Nazareth Restaurant and Deli. Weiner said the restaurant attack appeared to be random.

“There was no rhyme or reason as to who he was going after,” he said.

Police said four people were treated at Grant Medical Center – one taken in critical condition, two in stable condition, and a fourth who took himself there. A spokeswoman said Friday the hospital had no information to release about them.

Police haven’t released their names or identified the man who was killed.

Police said the man walked into the restaurant, left after a conversation with an employee, then returned about a half hour later and started attacking two people sitting in a booth at the front of the eatery.

Police said employees and patrons tried to stop the man, with some throwing chairs at him and one having a physical confrontation with the attacker before he fled.

Dining chairs were overturned and dark-stained pieces of paper towels and cloth littered the floor Friday at the restaurant, tucked between a cellphone store and a beer shop in a small strip mall. Two neon signs advertising gyros through the front glass stood out in the early morning darkness, but the police cordons and cruisers that had blocked off the area were gone.

A printed sign posted next to the door offered passers-by a common Arabic greeting, “Ahlan Wa Sahlan,” meaning roughly, “You are welcome to our place.”

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