ABILENE, Texas - Just months before Sunday's shooting at the Abilene IHOP, the restaurant ceased using Taylor County Sheriff's Office deputies to provide security on weekends.
On Monday, police arrested Brandon Green, 25, of Arlington for allegedly taking part in a shooting that sent one man to the hospital with six gunshot wounds. An estimated 50 other people were inside the restaurant at the time of the shooting.
Sheriff Ricky Bishop told KTXS that as of December 2013, IHOP stopped hiring deputies. He said the cost for them to hire deputies was $30 per hour, per deputy. He said IHOP typically hired them between the hours of 11 p.m., or midnight, to 4 a.m. on Friday's and Saturday's.
"Management called [in early December] and asked that we change from having two officers down to one because they weren't having any issues and they wanted to reduce the amount of money they were spending," Bishop said.
Bishop said he told IHOP managers he wasn't comfortable with their request for hiring only one officer at a time.
"We tried to explain to the management, ‘This is why you're not having problems because you do have two officers working,' and they wanted to save money and opted not to have our services any longer" Bishop said.
Bishop said the request posed a safety concern for deputies and for patrons due to the great amount of intoxicated individuals that visit the restaurant after the bars close on weekends. He also said two deputies are needed so one of them can monitor the parking lot while the other is inside the restaurant.
"We used to work it with just one officer at IHOP and then incidents happened where one officer couldn't handle it because you'd get three or four people fighting at once and you're the only officer in the middle of that fight -- trying to break it up," Bishop said. "It's just not safe."
KTXS reached out to a corporate spokesman Sunday for comment about the lack of security.
"While is it not our policy to comment on our franchisee's operations, guests can be assured that at this location, and at every IHOP restaurant, the safety of both our guests and our team members is of the utmost importance," IHOP spokesman Craig Hoffman said.
KTXS asked Bishop whether he could speculate about whether the suspect in the 3:44 a.m. Sunday shooting would have opened fire if deputies had been hired over the weekend. According to police, the suspect and victim were reportedly involved in an altercation inside the restaurant and the shooter left and opened fire on the victim as the victim exited the restaurant.
"It's hard to say because, I don't know, most of us don't know what the circumstances are that led up to the shooting," Bishop said. "Just from what I've heard on TV, you know, if there was an argument, officers would have intervened into the argument and both of those [people] would have been asked to leave – but they would have been asked to leave at separate times."
KTXS reached out to local IHOP management again Monday to check if there are any plans to re-hire any form of security. We were told "no comment."
Bishop said, as of Monday, restaurant managers have not approached him about re-hiring deputies. He said other businesses interested in hiring deputies for security can call the Taylor County Jail at (325) 691-7422 and ask to speak with Sgt. Kevin Henry.
"The business pays the officers directly," Lt. John Cummins said. "We call it 'extra-duty' work. The officer is an employee of the company that is paying them, until a criminal event takes place, then the officer begins to act in their official capacity."