BESSEMER CITY, N.C. (AP) — A man suffering from severe mental illness left a meal with his family and then drove his sport utility vehicle at high speed into the restaurant, killing his daughter and daughter-in-law and critically injuring other relatives, his pastor said Monday.
Roger Self had been treated for depression and anxiety that seemed to become more intense in the two and a half months preceding Sunday’s deadly crash, 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.
“His family and close friends have intensely labored to try and get Roger help. We all feel a level of guilt,” the pastor said at a news conference.
The pastor said Self’s judgment had become impaired, but he didn’t imagine he would hurt his family. He said his friend may have hoped to die in the crash, and that “It’s very possible that Roger imagined in his mind that the best thing for his family is that they all just go together.”
The crash sent stunned patrons scrambling at the Surf and Turf Lodge, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Charlotte. Self was immediately arrested.
Shackled and wearing an orange jumpsuit at a hearing on Monday, he showed little emotion as he asked for a court-appointed attorney and was ordered jailed without bond on two charges of first-degree murder.
The Selfs are a family of first responders. His daughter, Katelyn Self was a deputy with the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office. She and his daughter-in-law, Amanda Self, an emergency room nurse, were killed as the car rammed through the outside wall. Amanda Self was married to Roger’s son Josh Self, a Gaston County police officer.
Josh Self and Roger Self’s wife, Diane, were in critical but stable condition on 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.
“It was a roller coaster, and in the last few days it went from bad to really bad,” he said.
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.
Authorities said the family was requesting privacy and referred any questions to Rammell.
Roger Self, himself 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 and hundreds.”
The mission of this church has always been to help others, but Rammell said he needs to learn more about mental illness and the challenges people can face in finding treatment.
“This has been a huge lesson for me,” he said, later adding: “I think we as a nation are very ignorant about it, and we need to get non-ignorant about it.
This story has been corrected. It removes the word “heaven” from the pastor’s quote about why Self may have hoped to die with his family.