BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi Waffle House waitress who was shot and killed after asking a customer not to smoke was a 52-year-old who spent some of her final moments asking patrons how they enjoyed their Thanksgiving, authorities and witnesses said.
Julia Brightwell of Biloxi was killed with a bullet to the head, Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove said in an email Sunday.
Johnny Max Mount was jailed with bond set at $2 million. Biloxi police charged him with first-degree murder, saying he shot Brightwell early Friday after she asked him not to smoke.
Customer Richard Bonin told The Sun Herald (http://bit.ly/21kZuML) that Brightwell served him and two friends just before she was shot, and asked if they had a good Thanksgiving.
"She told us she was tired, but she was making the whole conversation about us," he said.
Brightwell had worked eight years at the restaurant, one of four Waffle House franchises in a 10-mile stretch of U.S. 90 in Biloxi.
Mount was a Biloxi firefighter for 10 years but left after being badly injured in a 2002 traffic accident, Fire Chief Joe Boney said.
Gulfport police said at the time that Mount was hit by a car while he stood in the middle of U.S. 49 about 2:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve. The accident was unavoidable and the driver was not charged, they said.
Rebecca Berry, who said she was a Mount family friend, told the newspaper that Mount suffered a traumatic brain injury in the accident, along with other injuries.
"He was a good person," she said. "He wasn't a monster. I don't know, something just snapped. I don't know of any other volatile things that he's ever done. I know his mother is devastated."
Kelly Thrasher-Bruner, a spokeswoman for Waffle House, Inc., said Friday, "This senseless tragedy is a shock for the Waffle House family. ... She will be greatly missed."
She said some franchises allow smoking but the one where Brightwell worked is smoke free.