The night manager of a popular downtown restaurant was shot and killed late last night during an apparent robbery attempt in front of more than 30 customers and employees.
Witnesses identified the victim as Tom Lafferty, 36, of Catonsville, a night manager at Burke's Cafe, 36 Light St., at the corner of Light and East Lombard streets. He was working at the bar cash register about 10:30 p.m. when a lone gunman walked through the front door and approached the bar.
"The guy walked in the door and said, 'Give me your money,' " said Burke's manager Tom Herrmann. "Tom said, 'What money?' Then the guy shot him. It was that fast."
The gunman shot Mr. Lafferty once in the chest with what some witnesses said was a .38-caliber handgun and then ran away without taking any money.
Employees tried to stop the bleeding from Mr. Lafferty's wound while awaiting an ambulance, which took the victim to the Maryland Shock-Trauma Center. He was pronounced dead there at 10:49 p.m., a hospital spokesman said.
Twenty to 30 people were at the bar and another 30 were elsewhere in the restaurant when the shooting occurred, Mr. Herrmann said.
"It was chaos and a lot of crying," he said. "Tom was a favorite of the regulars."
About 60 Burke's customers and employees were taken by bus to police headquarters for questioning by homicide detectives.
Police declined to release information about the shooting, saying they were still interviewing witnesses early this morning. They said they did not know whether the shooting was related to a recent spate of armed robberies at supermarkets, fast-food restaurants and banks.
Mr. Lafferty, who had worked as a manager at Burke's for the past three years, was described by Mr. Herrmann as a "likable, jovial, typical Irishman. A great guy."
He leaves behind a wife and two children, ages 8 and 6.
In January in another incident at the restaurant, a lone gunman robbed at least $400 from the bar cash register. No one was hurt and no shots were fired in that incident.