Tyler Gunderson, the front-of-the-house manager for The Rock Wood-Fired Pizza restaurant in Lakewood’s Belmar shopping district, was telling one of his dishwashers to go home Monday night when things suddenly went sideways.
He said he heard about eight gunshots, and two of the restaurant’s large front-facing windows blew out in a crash of glass. Several of the 30 or so customers in the restaurant flipped over their tables in a barrier-style move, afraid that whoever was shooting outside might venture in.
“One of my pizza cooks was crawling on the ground, coming around the corner,” Gunderson said.
He said he escorted some of the diners to the “dish pit” in the back of the restaurant, and others into the walk-in beer cooler.
“The biggest thing on everyone’s mind was, ‘Is this done?’ ” Gunderson said. “But no one was crying — everyone held together.”
When Gunderson stepped outside the restaurant after the gunfire had ceased, he saw a man lying motionless in the street at the intersection of South Vance Street and West Alaska Drive. He also saw medical personnel attending to a female police officer.
Lakewood police said one of their officers was injured in an exchange of gunfire with the suspect, who just minutes earlier had allegedly shot and injured an employee at the Hyatt House hotel across the street from The Rock as part of a deadly shooting spree across multiple locations in Denver and Lakewood. In all, the gunman killed four people and injured three others.
Other diners and shoppers also sought cover on the street and in neighboring businesses, including Nathan Beauchamp and his wife Heidi, who had sat down for dinner in the bar area at Tstreet, a restaurant around the corner on South Teller Street, near Belmar’s movie theater.
The couple had been to Tstreet dozens of times, Nathan Beauchamp said, and were there for an impromptu date night Monday when they saw a commotion near the front, where people had heard gunshots.
“We saw everybody looking,” he said, “and then a SWAT officer ran up to the door and was checking to see if it was locked. Somebody yelled ‘Get down!’ … The entire restaurant hit the floor in a matter of moments.”
At first, the Beauchamps and other diners didn’t know how far away the threat was. Nathan, 39, looked for potential exits, he said, while he and his wife huddled against a short divider wall for more than 15 minutes. Others crouched under tables. He said he attempted to distract two scared young girls who were out with another family by asking them questions.
It wasn’t until Beauchamp saw an update from Lakewood police on the department’s Twitter feed — announcing the officer-involved shooting — that he knew the danger was over. He and Heidi stayed to eat their meal, he said, but by the time they arrived home and were able to hug their boys, he was shaking.
“I’m grateful that we didn’t take our kids, and I’m grateful that nobody was hurt from where I was at,” Beauchamp said.
Andra Alvarez, general manager of the Hyatt House Denver/Lakewood at Belmar, issued a statement about the shooting Tuesday afternoon: “We are deeply concerned about the well-being of the hotel’s colleague who was impacted by the incident, and our hearts are with all those who were impacted by this senseless act of violence.”
Gunderson said he was relieved no one was hurt inside his pizza restaurant.
He passed out glasses of water to customers still inside the restaurant and even sent to-go orders home with folks who had their dinners interrupted. Gunderson said he was at the restaurant until 3:30 a.m. dealing with the aftermath of the shooting.
On Tuesday afternoon, he stood outside The Rock and surveyed the damage from the previous night’s violence. Three windows were boarded up and a worker swept up shards of glass inside the restaurant.
A note hung on the front door stating: “Due to recent events, we will be closed until Thursday, Dec. 30.”
“It’s kind of like that feeling,” Gunderson said. “Again?“
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