Kevin Watson, 27, was arrested Monday and charged with attempted first-degree murder in connection with the shooting in the parking lot of the waffle joint on East Mississippi Avenue in Aurora, Sentinel Colorado reported.
Witnesses told police that two unmasked men walked into the restaurant about 12:30 a.m. Thursday, but line cook Brian Gruhler, 25, told them they had to wear face coverings to be served, according to the news outlet.
The two men left the restaurant and returned later with masks – but they were holding them, not wearing them as they were required to do amid the coronavirus pandemic.
One of the men then flipped out and began threatening Gruhler, according to an arrest affidavit cited by the outlet.
“You better shut the f— up before I pull a gun and blow your brains out … I’ll come back there and shut you the f— up! Make my food!” he shouted, according to the document.
A waitress said she saw the suspect covering a handgun on the counter while he was shouting at the cook, though police were unable to corroborate that claim when watching surveillance video.
The next evening, Watson returned to the restaurant — this time wearing a mask — and again berated Gruhler before hitting him in the face, authorities said.
Gruhler fled to the back of the restaurant and exited through a back door, but Watson accosted him again, saying, “You better shut the f—- up and serve me!” according to the affidavit.
He was then shot once in the chest and ran to his nearby home, where he called 911.
Police linked Watson to the shooting after obtaining a receipt with his name on it from a transaction at the restaurant as well as vehicle records of a BMW that was in the parking lot at the time of the shooting.
The same vehicle was determined to be linked to another shooting at a tow yard in Denver on April 23.
Several Waffle House workers also ID’d the suspect from photo lineups, including a waitress who inadvertently picked up a gold earring that fell out of the pocket of the man who lashed out at Gruhler.
She determined it matched an earring seen in an old mugshot of Watson.
Several employees also told investigators that Watson is a regular customer at the restaurant.
Watson is being held on a $100,000 bond at the Arapahoe County jail pending a court appearance on May 22.
Waffle House rep Njeri Boss issued a statement to KDVR.
“This case involves a senseless act of violence that should not be tolerated in any community. We are very thankful that neither of our associates who were working when the incident occurred, suffered any life-threatening injuries,” Boss said.
“Our thoughts and well wishes remain with our associate who was injured and now is recovering at home.”