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By Kevin Ellis, Gazette staff
Posted May 20, 2018 at 2:28 PM, Updated May 20, 2018 at 10:10 PM
Many people in Gaston County’s law enforcement community have long considered Roger Self a friend, which leaves many questions about why he drove his Jeep through a Bessemer City restaurant on Sunday, killing two family members and injuring three others in the process.
District Attorney Locke Bell, who said he has known Self for more than 30 years, said the prominent Dallas businessman will face two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his daughter, Katelyn Self, who was a deputy with the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office, and his daughter-in-law, Amanda Self, a nurse at CaroMont Regional Medical Center.
Amanda Self was the wife of Gaston County Police Officer Josh Self, who also was seriously injured in the incident, along with Roger Self’s wife, Diane, and the 13-year-old daughter of Josh and Amanda Self. Several other family members were present, but were not injured. Family friends have said Josh Self and Diane Self, along with Roger Self’s granddaughter, are all expected to recover from their physical injuries.
They are all patients at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.
Mental illness and depression
While many know the 62-year-old Self as a faithful church-going family man who owned a successful private investigation and loss management company, Southeastern Loss Management Inc., friends say he had been battling depression and mental illness that left him almost unrecognizable to those closest to him.
Close friends say he began confiding in them about his condition about six months ago, but it had grown much worse over the past two months. Self would go days without getting out of bed. He became paranoid around people. He felt he was evil, friends say.
“He has been a shining light as to what it means to love people and then all of a sudden, about two months ago, it was like someone flipped a switch. I had never met this man,” said Pastor Austin Rammell, the minister of Venture Church where the Self family attended. “Taylor (Roger Self’s third child) is saying (today), ‘This is not my daddy.’”
Tragedy in Bessemer City
Rammell said he had spoken with Roger Self for hours on Saturday. During conversations, Self would often spin Bible verses out of context. He was seeing a psychiatrist and taking medicine for anxiety, but was in a bad place in regard to mental health, Rammell said.
“He was trying to get help,” Rammell said. “We were trying to steer him toward help.”
Rammell said he saw Self before Sunday morning services and gave his “dear, dear friend” a thumbs-up sign. He remembers Roger Self nodding back. Ironically, Josh and Amanda Self were supposed to go with their children to the Rammell’s home Sunday night for “family life” home studies.
“He and his entire family were at church this morning,” Rammell said. “They took up an entire row.”
Events turned deadly
Around 12:04 p.m. Sunday, the Self family was already seated in the Surf and Turf Lodge restaurant. Roger Self had come into the restaurant with the family before he excused himself. Family members were eating appetizers while seated together, and had thought Roger Self had left to use the restroom.
In a flash, Self was driving through the restaurant’s front door at a high rate of speed into the area where he knew his family was seated.
A waiter, Brandon Wilson, said he was headed to the Self table to see if they need refills on their drinks at the time.
“I saw a white Jeep just fly right past my face,” Wilson said. “It was so unreal. I saw chairs and tables and cups just flying everywhere. It just sounded like a tornado.”
He then saw the injured. Katelyn Self would die at the scene. Amanda Self would die at the hospital.
The young granddaughter was covered in blood and cuts, shaking. She was unresponsive.
“I tried to help, but there wasn’t anything I could do,” Wilson said.
Another waiter, Nathaniel Vickers, said he recognized Roger Self as a regular at the restaurant. He said he saw him come inside the restaurant and then saw him leave. Vickers wasn’t supposed to work today, but was filling in for someone who had called out. Vickers said seeing people pinned under the Jeep and under tables was unsettling, but especially the look of the teenage girl.
“I was just there trying to help the best I could. It was chaotic, dust everywhere,” Vickers said. “The woman died in my manager’s arms.”
‘Our hearts are broken’
Gaston County Sheriff Alan Cloninger released the following statement: “Today we lost one of our own, Deputy Katelyn Self, in a tragic incident that occurred while she was not on duty. Katelyn has served the Sheriff’s Office for four years and was a corporal in the jail. Our hearts are broken and we ask for your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time, not only for Katelyn’s family and friends, but also her brothers and sisters in uniform.”
Bessemer City Police Chief Tom Ellis called the incident a “tragic, tragic loss of life.” The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department offered its assistance and other police agencies in Gaston County were expected to offer help.
“We’re methodically working our way through this to make sure we get the correct answers and provide justice for our citizens,” Ellis said.
Self was booked into Gaston County Jail at 6:59 p.m. without bond on two counts of first-degree murder. He will make a first court appearance on Monday. If convicted as charged, Self would face life in prison without parole.
Despite Self’s familiarity with law enforcement and those in the court system, the county’s chief prosecutor said he will be treated like everyone else.
“He will be taken to the Gaston County Jail and will be brought up to court for his first appearance at 2 p.m. Monday,” Bell said.
However, Bell added, there have already been some discussions about getting Self psychiatric help.
You can reach Kevin Ellis at 704-869-1823 or Twitter.com/TheGazetteKevin.