Witnesses: Denny's customer killed by robbers, was trying to protect children

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by KHOU.com staff, Tim Wetzel & Jeremy Desel / KHOU 11 News

KMOV.com

Posted on August 29, 2013 at 8:45 AM

HOUSTON – A customer was fatally shot and an employee was injured during a robbery at a Denny’s restaurant in west Houston, homicide detectives said early Tuesday.

It happened at the Denny’s along Interstate 10 at Washington Avenue around 10:30 p.m. Monday, according to officers with the Houston Police Department.

Police said three men wearing masks and bandanas went into the restaurant and ordered all customers and employees to the ground.

A family member of one of the victims said the men took purses and cell phones, and even pointed their guns at small children. The men also stole money from the customers and the cash register.

Witnesses said the robbers became angry and started shooting before they left the scene. The bullets struck a customer and an employee who was trying to escape out the front door.

Family members identify the customer as 64-year-old Robert Placette, who later died at Memorial Hermann Hospital.

"He was a good man who always tried to do right by people," said Drue Placette, the victim’s son.

Witnesses say Placette was standing in front of terrified children to protect them when he was shot in the chest.

"They said when they started pointing guns at the kids like that, he got up and stood in front of them. That is the only thing that kind of makes me happy, makes me smile, makes me proud that he would do that," said Drue. "I think that my dad died honorably and I hope people remember that."

A 43-year-old Denny’s employee remains hospitalized at Ben Taub Hospital. He is expected to be OK.

The robbers escaped in a minivan, believed to be stolen.

Police spent several hours looking over the scene and the evidence, which included bullet holes in some of the cars parked outside.

Police said the men wore masks, but the crime and the getaway vehicle may have been captured on video by surveillance cameras.

If they are putting a gun to a small kid’s head, they need to be stopped," said Drue Placette.

Denny’s reopened a few hours after the deadly robbery. Regulars stopped by to check on the employees they’ve come to know.

"You never think it’s going to happen to somebody you know, or some place that you go, and it’s really sad when it does," said Peggy McMillan, a regular. "It’s horrible. We just want to check and make sure everybody is OK. I know somebody didn’t make it and we feel really bad about it."

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