A robber shot by a police officer last week while holding a McDonald’s employee hostage didn’t have a gun, according to a report released Tuesday by Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez.
Officers initially thought Dennis Lawrence Palm Jr. was holding a gun behind the employee’s back when he threatened to shoot her in the dark McDonald’s at 3117 Tower Blvd., the report states. They now believe he was holding a broken telephone.
At this time it appears no department policies or procedures were violated, according to the report.
“Throughout the entire engagement I considered the suspect to be violent, extremely dangerous, and an absolute deadly threat,” Officer Ryan Harris said in the report. “Because his hands were concealed behind the victim’s back I could not confirm if he did have a weapon.”
Palm was shot in the face by another officer, Sgt. Glen Price, who has been placed on administrative leave with pay, which is standard procedure with officer-involved shootings. Price has been with the department since 1995.
Palm, 26, of Durham, was released from the hospital Friday and taken to Durham County jail. Police charged him with two counts of second-degree kidnapping, one count of attempted common-law robbery, two counts of assault on a female and two counts of communicating threats.
He is being held under $151,000 bail, according to the jail’s website.
A woman called 911 just before 4 a.m. June 17 and reported a robbery in progress at the restaurant. The restaurant opens at 5 a.m., but employees usually come in an hour before.
The woman who was held hostage later told police that Palm shoved his way in as she entered. Palm told her to lock the door and pressed an item into her back, which she believed to be a gun, the report states.
A second employee arrived and Palm took the two to a back room while they waited for a manager, who would have a key the safe, to arrive. The second employee called 911 on her cell phone as Palm moved the other woman to the back room.
Three police officers entered the building after Palm didn’t comply with orders to show his hands, the report states.
One employee escaped, and police found Palm with his left arm around a woman’s neck and his right arm behind her back holding an unknown object, the report states.
“The suspect declared several times that he was not going to release his hostage, that he was going to shoot and kill her, and he was not afraid to take a life,” the report states.
Officers shined their flashlights on Palm, and it appeared he tried to move and barricade himself and the employee in the back of the building, the report states.
Price fired his gun, striking Palm’s jaw, the report states. The employee wasn’t seriously injured.
Three officer-involved shootings in 2013 led to a new policy under which Lopez provides a report on the incident to City Manager Tom Bonfield within five days. The report is made public at that time.