Two ornaments adorn the entrance of Nazareth Restaurant and Deli in Columbus, Ohio. One, as local station WBNS-10TV described, is a small Israeli flag.
The other is an Arabic greeting commonly used to convey welcome: “Ahlan wa Shalan.”
For the last two decades, Nazareth has served its patrons all manner of Middle Eastern fare, from gyros to shawarma, lamb kebabs to stuffed grape leaves. On Yelp, the restaurant boasts a 4.5 star rating and dozens of customer reviews extolling the friendly service.
Everything about Nazareth’s history places it at odds with the scene that overtook the restaurant on Thursday evening, when a machete-wielding man stormed inside and started attacking.
After he left four injured, police shot and killed the suspect, whose name and age have not been revealed. One person who was in critical condition is now “stable,” Columbus Police Department spokesman Sgt. Rich Weiner told CNN.
The man had been at the restaurant half an hour earlier, when he spoke to an employee and left. Upon his return, he walked straight to a man and a woman at a booth and attacked them with a machete.
According to The Associated Press, the man continued his rampage across the restaurant as others attempted to quell him by throwing chairs in his direction.
The incident played out like a silent horror film, with customers frantically trying to escape the man’s random, inexplicable slashes. He remained quiet all the while, according to witnesses speaking to WBNS-10TV.
“He looked straight at me but he went over to the booths and just started going down the booths,” a waitress said. “It all seemed to happen in slow motion.”
Karen Bass, who was in the restaurant at the time, told WBNS-10TV that she fell five times trying to escape.
“He came to each table and just starting hitting them,” she said. “There were tables and chairs overturned, there was a man on the floor bleeding, there was blood on the floor…My legs felt like jelly. I just thought he was going to come up behind me and slash me up.”
Twenty people, including two babies, were present during the attack, witnesses told WBNS-10TV.
One man tried to fight the suspect, CNN reported, while two others ran out to call 911. The man fled, leading police on a short chase before officers forced him off the road.
After trying unsuccessfully to use a stun gun on the suspect, police shot and killed the man.
“At that point he had a machete and another knife in his hand and he lunged across the hood at the officers,” Weiner told AP.
Police are still investigating the crime, but Weiner said there is currently no indication that it was anything but a random attack.