CLEVELAND – A man whose wife had just told him she was leaving him shot and killed her and one of their daughters, who was celebrating her birthday, inside a crowded Cracker Barrel restaurant in a Cleveland suburb, then was killed by police as he fled.
Kevin Allen came into the restaurant in suburban Brooklyn on Thursday night with a shotgun and, witnesses said, "selectively" fired on his family. The shooting created panic and confusion in the restaurant, and a manager helped get people out through a rear door, a witness said.
In addition to the death of Katherina Allen, 42, and Kerri Allen, 10, the couple's other 10-year-old daughter, Kayla, was wounded and in critical condition, authorities said. According to police records, Thursday was Kerri Allen's birthday.
Police records dating back nearly 20 years painted a picture of Kevin Allen, married at least three times, as a violent man with a history of threatening wives and others. Just two days earlier, Katherina told police in their hometown of Strongsville that she had left her husband and taken their daughters after "an incident" on Easter and was afraid to go home to collect their belongings.
Katherina Allen "stated that she has not been getting along with her husband and decided to take the kids and stay with a friend," according to the Tuesday police report.
"Initially she wanted to pick up some items from the house, but decided not to because it would make him mad if police responded," the report said, adding that Katherina wanted to document "verbal altercations" the couple had been having.
Katherina called 911 from inside the restaurant Thursday, saying her husband was upset because she had told him she was leaving him. He left the restaurant and was circling the parking lot, she told police. She also told police she feared he might become violent.
"I'm having some spouse problems," Katherina Allen tells the dispatcher in the 911 call.
The dispatcher then asks her if Kevin Allen owns any weapons or is armed. She says her husband had told her he'd gotten rid of a shotgun, but she had seen him with shotgun shells. She also told the dispatcher that Kevin Allen was calling one of her daughters in the restaurant.
At the end of the call, Allen says, "He's here and the police are here, too. I have to ..." She then stops speaking.
The dispatcher says: "Wait in the lobby for the officers. Do not go outside. Let them talk to him, OK? Ma'am?" The call then ends in a jumble of noise.
Officers heard gunshots when they arrived and saw Allen, 51, of Strongsville, leaving the restaurant with a gun. Police Chief Scott Mielke said officers shot him when he refused to surrender. He died at the scene.
Katherina Allen died from shotgun wounds to her head and body, and Kerri Allen died of a shotgun wound to the abdomen, according to the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner.
David Allen, who identified himself as Kevin Allen's brother, on Friday answered a number listed for Kevin Allen's mother and said the family had no comment.
In February, Columbia Gas Co. requested a police escort to Kevin Allen's house, explaining he had not paid his bill "and has stated he will shoot anyone who attempts to turn his gas off," according to a Feb. 22 Strongsville police report. The report said the company eventually worked things out with Allen.
In June 1995, police in Kirtland — about 20 miles east of Cleveland — arrested Kevin Allen after responding to reports of a violent argument between him and his girlfriend, Janice Koerlin. The argument was the same day that Allen received a divorce from his wife, the report said.
Koerlin told police at a previous house that Allen "had violent episodes and had smashed household items."
Three months later, Allen was arrested again after Koerlin — now his wife — said he tried to suffocate her with a pillow. The Sept. 14, 1995, report said Kevin Allen was a "manic depressive under medication."
Police reports say Kevin Allen also was arrested for burglary and theft in 2008.
Documents filed by Kevin and Katherina Allen in federal bankruptcy court in Cleveland last year indicate they owed $60,000 to various creditors, including a $20,000 hospital bill. Other creditors included several credit card companies and two other hospitals. The filing was closed March 28.
Records also show that Kevin Allen filed for bankruptcy in 1991 and 2004, and that Katherina Allen filed for bankruptcy in 2000.
Other court records show Kevin Allen has an adult daughter from the previous marriage that ended in 1995.
Someone inside the restaurant, Robert Lovelace, told WKYC-TV that the shooting scene was chaotic.
"We all ran," Lovelace said. He said people in the restaurant didn't know what was happening. "We just told them, 'Look, let's get out of here,'" he said.
The manager helped move people to safety through a rear door, the company said.
The restaurant will remain closed until the investigation is completed, Cracker Barrel spokeswoman Julie K. Davis said in an email from corporate offices in Lebanon, Tenn.
"This appears to be the result of a domestic dispute between two guests and no Cracker Barrel employees were involved," she said.
Rodriguez reported from Columbus. Associated Press writer Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus and researcher Judith Ausebel in New York contributed to this report.