Man kills Mississippi Waffle House employee over smoking policy

Photo shows Johnny Max Mount who allegedly shot and killed a Waffle House employee in Mississippi.

Photo shows Johnny Max Mount who allegedly shot and killed a Waffle House employee in Mississippi.  (Harrison County Jail)

A Mississippi Waffle House customer shot and killed an employee early Friday after she has him not to smoke, police said.

Biloxi police Sgt. Donnie Dobbs said a call was received about the shooting at 1:11 a.m. The customer, Johnny Max Mount, had argued with employee Julia Brightwell of Biloxi after being told that he couldn’t smoke, Dobbs said.

"He pulled out a handgun and shot her in the head," Dobbs said.

Biloxi was killed with a bullet to the head, Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove said in an email Sunday.

Brightwell died on the way to the hospital, Hargrove said.

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 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.

The suspect was outside the restaurant when police arrived and surrendered without incident.

Mount was charged with first-degree murder and is being held on $2 million bond at the Harrison County Adult Detention Center, police said.

The Waffle House restaurant in Biloxi has a nonsmoking policy, said Kelly Thrasher-Bruner, a spokeswoman for Waffle House, Inc.

"This senseless tragedy is a shock for the Waffle House family. Our associate was a friend to many as well as a valued member of the Waffle House team for eight years as a salesperson. She will be greatly missed. Our prayers are with her family, friends, co-workers and customers," Thrasher-Bruner said.

The restaurant has since reopened, she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.