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Police seek to curb Cook-Out shootings
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Police seek to curb Cook-Out shootings
Police, restaurant form partnership to address fights, gunfire on weekend nights

One of Wilson’s most popular teen hangouts is off-limits for James Johnson III’s children, and as long as the fights and gunfire continue, that’s not likely to change.

The Wilson city councilman said he’s become increasingly concerned about unruly crowds at Cook-Out, a fast-food restaurant at 2925 Raleigh Road Parkway West.

"I have two teenagers, and I won’t allow them to go there,” Johnson said. "When it’s dark and unless I’m with them and getting a milkshake, they’re not going to go.”

The eatery known for blended milkshakes and backyard grill-style hamburgers is a gathering place for teens and young adults on weekend nights. Wilson police have investigated two shootings at the restaurant in the past month, one on May 25 and one on June 15. No one was shot in the gun blasts.

Trouble at the Cook-Out isn’t a new phenomenon. Johnson, who serves as mayor pro-tem, first raised the issue at a September 2011 City Council meeting.

"I thought we had this licked last year,” Johnson said Friday. "I’m just at a loss. I hope with them working with the police department again, they can squash this.”

Police commanders say they met with Cook-Out’s district manager last week and discussed ways to prevent future fights and shootings. The restaurant has hired two off-duty Wilson police officers to provide security on weekend nights, and police are also planning more patrols in the area.

"The police department’s making specific preparations to address recent issues of shots fired,” Capt. Tad Shelton said. "We take any type of crime involving a weapon extremely seriously, and we want to address it before it becomes an issue — before someone’s hurt.”



In a little more than a year, police have been called to Cook-Out 83 times. Wilson police provided a complete list of calls for service at the restaurant from June 1, 2012 to June 17, 2013.

"I would say that’s much higher than the average” for a similarly sized fast-food restaurant, Shelton said.

Three calls were for reports of shots fired, seven were for fights and police were called 20 times for a disturbance or disturbance of the peace, according to the data.

Officers investigated five reports of suspicious vehicles and four reports of a suspicious person — with one call from July 4, 2012, listed as a suspicious person with a weapon.

Not every call reflected a threat of violent crime. The 83 calls include nine crashes in the Cook-Out parking lot and eight officer-initiated traffic stops.

Cook-Out’s history of problems dates back at least as far as 2011. From January to early September of that year, police responded to roughly 70 calls at the restaurant.

Shelton said the fast-food flare-ups tend to increase during the high school football season in the fall, when students will congregate at the restaurant after leaving the games. The winter basketball season also has drawn crowds.

"This is a bit unexpected to have the issues we’ve had recently in the spring and early summer,” Shelton said. "We want to get on top of things early.”

Police say the cause may be a combination of the restaurant’s late hours and outdoor seating, which is more conducive to large crowds than an indoor dining room, and the business’s appeal to restless Wilson County teens.

"The youth have been looking for somewhere to hang out since forever — since I was a teenager,” Shelton said.

Johnson said most high-schoolers who gather at the Cook-Out probably aren’t looking for trouble. He said the crowds also consist of young men — "people coming in from out of town talking to the younger girls.”



Wilson police Capt. Mark Sullivan and Sgt. Luke Marcum met with Brian Thomas, Cook-Out’s district manager, last Monday. The restaurant chain arranged to hire two off-duty police officers to provide security at Cook-Out on Friday and Saturday nights.

Shelton said restaurant management has been receptive to police concerns and is working with the department to deter loitering and prevent future fights.

"Apparently, the manager is more than willing to adjust the hours of the off-duty as needed,” he said.

A manager at the Wilson restaurant referred questions to Cook-Out’s corporate headquarters in Thomasville. Executives there didn’t return phone calls seeking comment in time for this story. An employee said Thomas was on vacation Thursday and Friday.

Cook-Out is a privately owned fast-food chain with 100 restaurants in the Carolinas, Tennessee and Virginia. The company has no official website, but loyal patrons have created at least two fan sites listing menu items and locations.

Shelton said Cook-Out had previously hired off-duty police officers on a seasonal basis. In summer 2011, managers had an unarmed security guard from Fayetteville-based Templar Security stationed at the restaurant on weekend nights.

Sworn police officers have more authority to detain someone than security guards, but in some cases, cities and counties can still be held liable for officers’ conduct even if they’re performing off-duty security work for a private business.

"Off-duty police officers who either purport to exercise official authority or who exercise actual police authority may be acting under color of state law,” attorney David H. Peck wrote in an article for the Police Policy Studies Council.

Off-duty officers’ presence alone may deter disorderly behavior, Shelton said, and law-abiding customers are still welcome at the restaurant.

"We’re not trying to hinder the business itself — they provide a service to the community,” Shelton said. "But we certainly want to discourage those who want to come out there and cause trouble.”

Shelton said the police department is also working with the restaurant on crime prevention strategies.

"Cook-Out is considering other safety measures,” he said.

Johnson said he’s hopeful that Cook-Out’s partnership with police will make the restaurant a safer place to be.

"I believe the security and zero tolerance for any problems out there will pretty much take care of those problem hours,” he said.

But, Johnson added, he’s willing to research restrictions that city leaders could impose if fights and shootings at the restaurant continue.

"I can’t imagine we’re going to give them a long leash,” he said. | 265-7821
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Zayla said...

If Wilson cannot solve this problem, it needs to give up its incorporation as a city and let the state handle it. We who pay city taxes expect a better quality of life than this.

Friday, June 28, 2013 at 5:47 PM
gangs said...

In the other article in the WDT about gangs it states: "Supposedly, words were exchanged between some of the local gangsters at Cook-Out, and it’s bled out into the streets,” So according to Det. Smith, gangs are at CookOut. Still think its an innocent "teenager" thing? It is a serious problem and I would not be one of the off duty officers who have to put up with risking their life for those who care less about the consequences. Time to make an example out of few troublemakers.

Friday, June 28, 2013 at 1:14 PM
@c'mon said...

No, we do not have enough on duty police to just "be there in the evenings" at every problem place in town. And they are not "security" officers but law enforcement; there is a difference. Many people have the false sense of security with Law Enforcement when in most cases they arrive after a crime has been committed. In this instance, the city and restaurant needs to be proactive with proven methods. This is hardly inventing the wheel territory; do what has worked in similar situations in other cities. Either way you slice it, my kids will not be there. It is not worth the majority of it being fun for the small chance of injury/death by a gun shot. Why any parent let's their kids go there is beyond me; that's like running into a burning building even if the percent of getting hurt is .0000000000009%. My child is too valuable in my eyes knowing that there are almost 2 calls a week to police all year long on average (precedence has been set). I think the restaurant would change if you start pulling away your dollar.

Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 3:10 PM
@ James Davis: said...

Please explain your comment about east Wilson invading west Wilson. Please just say what we all know you really want to say......

Thursday, June 27, 2013 at 9:22 AM
Motto said...

I'd die for a Cookout hamburger.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 5:29 PM
The Church Lady said...

I agree with Pretty Maria. The transgressions of Wilson's youth at this fine dining establishment makes me wonder. Could it be a lack of things to do at 2AM? Could it be the food at Cook Out is so good these starving, hormone crazed young people in Wilson cannot resist it? Or could it be THE DEVIL?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 4:56 PM Can't Understand said...

Why chose to eat somewhere if the undertaker is subject to be the one to pick you up?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 3:09 PM C'mon, people said...

This really isn't all that difficult a problem. The police need to hang out at Cookout in the evenings. No, they're not paid by Cookout to provide security. They're paid by us, the taxpayers, to provide security. When there's a problem, you go where the problem is. There are enough police in this town for at least one of them to be there in the evenings, not just for Cookout, but to be ready to respond to any problem in that vicinity.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 10:05 PM Close the churches said...

Patrolling the Cookout is not the job of the churches. They need to stay out of it. Churches are too busy intruding on everything already. They are not law enforcement agencies.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 5:45 PM @ reality check said...

in every stereotype there is a grain of truth

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 5:07 PM Reality check? said...

Church folk ain't going to be up at 2 a.m. on Sunday.
Just close down the outdoor seating after 10 p.m. and post no loitering signs. End of the problem.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 11:02 AM Reality Check said...

Excuse me, James Davis. Did you really say that east Wilson is "invading" west Wilson? Do you mean that the African Community is "invading" the "white" community? Do you see the explicit racism in your ignorant comment? And to the other poster who called attention to the photo attached to the article and said "enough said," you might want to check your racism quota too. How sad that a fundamental problem of crowd control brings out the "crazies" to add their ignorant statements to the problem. Let's offer some real solutions instead of heaping generalities and prejudices on the issue via your comments in this forum. How about asking church groups to volunteer to have a "sit in" every weekend night at Cookout? 20 or 30 church folk, black, white, latino, asian, green, blue, whatever. Having them at the picnic tables at Cookout every Friday and Saturday until 2:00 am would certainly curb the violence. Let's offer solutions instead of hatred, implied or explicit.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 10:02 AM @ more of t he same said...

19th century? at least if you committed the crime and got caught you got punished then. perhaps if that were the case now things wouldn't be so bad.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 7:47 AM Pretty Marie said...

The Cookout is a Christian business. You see John 3:16 on the cups. The violence is the work of the devil. It's a very clear case of good versus evil.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 10:17 PM to the gun lovers said...

Way too many Deputy Dawgs.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 9:44 PM More of the Same said...

Paranoid rants from people who don't feel "tough" unless they are carrying. Give me a break! You needed to live over 100 years ago in the Old West, you would have fit right in. But this is the 21st Century, not the 19th.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 9:22 PM Close the churches said...

I agree with Ummmm.

Monday, June 24, 2013 at 5:38 PM to the gun haters said...

keep your uneducated, drug selling, thug, gang banging children home or put a leash on them and control them.
then we won't have to worry about being shot at while eating dinner.
or maybe if they had better aim when they shoot each other over no reason, half of the law abiding citizens' problems would go away.
just because they are bored in a parking lot and someone says something they don't like or looks at their girl doesn't give them right to pull their stolen, illegal handgun and start shooting.
it's time to start calling out not only the idiots causing the problem, but the families of the problem.
stop making a weapon the excuse and blame the hand holding the weapon.
the rest of you who think no one else being armed except the criminals had better start paying off duty police to accompany you everywhere.
ever see the movie the Guardian, with Martin Sheen?

Monday, June 24, 2013 at 4:32 PM How many morons.... said...

will continue to spout off about, "that's what you get for welcoming guns in eating establishments"?
Unfortunately, more than will ever be convinced it's not the law abiding citizens committing the crimes.
These are the same people that want to file a lawsuit when they spill hot coffee on themselves while driving, or complain that it's societies fault when the child they did not raise properly and support does poorly in school or robs a store.
I heard a 'community leader' at a political meeting railing on about welcoming guns in eating establishments.
This was right before we heard about registering voters, 'they will vote for you because you helped them get food stamps'.
Are we really that screwed up and delusional a nation?
If we are, bring on the rapture and get it over with.

Monday, June 24, 2013 at 1:56 PM And Other folks talk out of the right end said...

That's exactly where your gun should stay, at home protecting YOUR family. Not in a locked container in a locked car in any public setting, or in your pocket sitting next to me in a restaurant. Anyone carrying a concealed gun (permit or no) is not innocent. Why anyone would trust those who carry is beyond me. We don't need Deputy Dawg in a melee.

Monday, June 24, 2013 at 1:20 PM And Other folks talk out of the right end said...

Monday, June 24, 2013 at 1:18 PM James Davis said...

I am sorry Carl democrats made Wilson a more dangerous place. Democrats have controlled Wilson for over a hundred years! East Wilson is totally democrat and they are invading west Wilson!

Monday, June 24, 2013 at 8:28 AM Some folks talk out of the wrong end said...

Have you read Buck's Proposed bill?? Apparently not. But I agree with the fact the PARENTS need to raise their kids. Why aren't these kids at HOME? I would love to know how many of the guns/kids involved legally possessed the weapon. I carry concealed, never have shot the gun other than target practice, and likely will never have to, but I will do my best to protect myself, my family and other innocent bystanders if ever needed. (and I am a female.)

Monday, June 24, 2013 at 7:39 AM Dollar Signs? said...

Maybe Bucky Boy sees dollar signs. After all, he is a lawyer.

Monday, June 24, 2013 at 9:12 PM To Well said...

I agree 100% with you but I'm afraid that isn't a solution that's going to work in the real world. Too many parents don't parent at all and it's up to the rest of us to decide what to do about their kids when they behave badly or break the law.

Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 4:48 PM Carl said...

If BUCK NEWTON gets his "guns for all" bill passed, there will be more shootings and more killings. Yaaaaaahhhoooooooo!!!!
Thank you Buck for making Wilson a more dangerous place to live.

Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 1:16 PM Latest Joke said...

Did you hear the one about Bucky Boy, the lawyer-turned-lawmaker from Wilson who wants to allow gun owners to take their weapons with them into restaurants and onto school campuses? Oh wait! That's not a joke.

Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 1:01 PM The problem isn't that kids don't have a place to go said...

After all, they could hang out at Cookout if people weren't fighting and shooting guns. In the past, kids in Wilson have hung out at the Creamery, Bill's Drive-In (before it was Bill Ellis Barbecue), the Rec Teen Club, Reid Street and the mall. Those places just ended up phasing out but had there been gunplay and violence, they would have been shut down.
The problem isn't that they have nowhere to go, it's that they don't know how to behave. And it might not be "kids" doing the shooting or fighting, it could be 20-somethings. But the bottom line is that unless something is done to discourage kids or young adults congregating, there will be a tragic occurrence at Cookout.

Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 12:55 PM Amazing said...

Again a comment submitted that makes sense but is against the media's position of favoring erosion of Constitutional rights is denied.
How many of those guns that are used there are legally possessed? I would say not many, if any at all. But it makes perfect sense to blame a law that allows people to carry a concealed gun into a restaurant. Especially a law abiding person. I know, in the end you all will destroy this country from within as you are being used by an agendized angry left as you are typically misinformed or uninformed as to the rights of people in this nation and the reason these rights were put into place. But until you ruin this country with your ignorant ideas I will enjoy the right to protect myself and my family from people with no respect for others and their safety.

Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 11:19 AM Ummmm said...

Hey Marie religion is not the answer to everything.

Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 10:56 AM mr wide awake said...

they need something to do, instead of spending 2 million dollars on some whirl winds downtown, they should have spent some of that money on theses kids, they have nothing to do ,what go to the rec,they cant go to the mall no more, skating ring close down, so what's left for them to do,yep that's right join gangs, so thank the mayor for turning his back on theses kids

Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 3:27 AM Tommy said...

I can remember as a teen we use to hang out in the Wal-Mart parking lot and never had anything close to as bad as Gun Play, I can remember only a handful of fights and were usually by folks who were not part of the normal crowd. Now they ran us off, even threatened to take us down town, even arrest us once we turned 18. Now pardon my ignorance but my question is if they could do all that to us then when all we were doing is hanging out, why can't more be done to these folks when there is proof of gun play and the like?

Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 2:25 AM said...


Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 12:13 AM 1000 Words said...

Ever heard that a picture is worth a thousand words? Look at the picture attached to this article. That pretty much explains it. Nothing to do, this is a hangout atmosphere not a restaurant atmosphere.

Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 12:09 AM Well said...

Here's an idea, why don't parents start doing there job and make your kids come home at a decent hour. Its called a curfew. And anyone under 18, unless living on their own, is a kid in my book. Society needs to wake up. Parents and the way kids are raised is the problem here. Guess where all of the good kids I know were during this latest shooting? At home with their families where they should have been.

Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 10:46 PM paperboy said...

they should change the name of the Cook-out to the Shoot-out. Pass a Law, the next time someone has a gun at the cook out, you will go to jail for 5 years with no questions asked.

Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 10:41 PM Not in restaurants or school campuses said...

Everyone is responsible for themselves. Does that mean rational society looks away when folks with guns become irrational and start shooting? Everyone at some point becomes irrational about something. Keep your guns at home, for protection at home. I have a right too, to make sure my child is not on campus with your gun.

Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 4:40 PM Simple solution said...

Close down the outdoor dining area and post no loitering signs. If you want food or shakes, go to the drive-thru. Allowing people to congregate is the problem.

Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 4:36 PM Pretty Marie said...

We have to have a community that is for religion and not violence.

Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 1:26 PM Jella Ree said...

Maybe if the girls would go home at a decent hour...

Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 1:17 PM To 2nd Amendment Rights said...

How many of those kids who shoot are legally in possession of those guns?
We are finished as a nation when people like this vote counts as much as those who truly cares about the nation as a whole and has pride in the stars and stripes as much as it does for devicive agendas, which most are just too misinformed or uninformed to understand they are being used to push them.
This is exactly the reason I am glad I have the right to carry. In the end I know people like you with your agendas will ultimately destroy the greatest nation ever created, but for now I will enjoy my right and protect myself and my family. Ignorance is no excuse under the law, too bad it is allowed and encouraged to use people for advancement of such destructive policies.

Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 12:32 PM citizen said said...

Look at the pictures Mr. Johnson what do you think the problem is? It is not cookouts fault.

Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 12:27 PM Finger pointing dummy said...

Take your dumb comment else where, everyone is responsible for them selves. Blame the idiots using guns for stupid and quit blaming the gun!!! I have one and it's for protection not to show off and shoot for no reason!!

Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 9:35 AM Kids activity said...

I say kids should just create a slow moving cruising circle. It could be by the cookout, behind it, with the loop around Quinzno's. That would have less 1 to 1 exposure and likely reduce violence and sell more gas.

Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 6:33 AM 2nd amendment rights said...

Well, what do you expect when guns are welcome at eating establishments?

Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 1:10 AM
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