Kaden Vaughn still can’t get his mind around what happened Friday night.

Vaughn, a senior at Dorman and a goalkeeper on the Cavaliers’ soccer team, was one of six people shot outside of the Cook Out at 1620 John B. White Sr. Blvd.

Police said they don't believe any of the injuries were life-threatening, which is somewhat amazing given the absolute chaos of the night as described by the people who were there.

“Mentally, it’s hard to believe it happened,” said Vaughn, who suffered a bullet wound clean through his ankle and was grazed by another bullet on the arm. “It still doesn’t feel real.”

Vaughn said he arrived at the restaurant at approximately 10:50 p.m. Friday. With the Byrnes at Dorman football game not long over, he said the crowd at Cook Out was larger than usual. The restaurant opened this summer and by all accounts has become a popular hangout for young people after high school football games.

“It was unusually packed,” Vaughn said. “Crazy packed.”

Vaughn remembers recognizing several people in the crowd and feeling uneasy.

“I remember I knew some people there who had dropped out, who were rumored to be in gangs,” he said. “What was going on didn’t look right to me. I went outside to eat with my friends who were there, and one group looked mad at another. I was supposed to take a girl home, and I asked if she was ready to head out. We heard shots before we even got to the parking lot.”

Vaughn was hit by stray shots. The girl, also a Dorman athlete, sustained an injury as well. Vaughn said his immediate concern was for his friend.

“I couldn’t find her,” he said. “I finally saw she got in a car with somebody and was getting out of there. I kind of panicked. I realized I was shot in the leg, and grazed in the arm. I drove home and let my parents take me to the emergency room. I didn’t want to wait on an ambulance. I didn’t want to sit there. I felt like it was dangerous.”

Vaughn’s father, Dennis, said he was thankful for the support his son and the others who were injured received at the hospital.

“We’re so fortunate to go to Dorman,” he said. “The principal and a lot of other people were there to help. We’re members at First Baptist Spartanburg, and the youth director was there. There was just a whole lot of support for the young people and their families.”

In talking with others and remembering more of the night, Vaughn has pieced together some of what his friends did during the shooting.

“Everybody was running,” he said. “People hid in the kitchen, hid in the bathrooms. A friend of mine was parked beside me, and his car got shot up. I’m thankful none of those shots hit me.”

Inside the restaurant were several Dorman students and athletes who had gathered after the Cavaliers’ game against Byrnes. Thomas Morgan, who turned in a stellar performance in the game, said his focus immediately turned to safety when he first heard the shots.

“I really can’t remember anything,” Morgan said. “I was just trying to make sure my teammates were safe.”

Dorman softball player Grace Jolly said safety was her focus as well. Sitting in a booth with two friends near the middle of the restaurant, Jolly said she specifically remembers the shooting starting around 11:30 p.m.

“At first we saw a lot of people running and ducking under the tables, then we heard rapid shots from outside for about 15 seconds,” she said. “The first thing we did was go underneath our table and pray. When we noticed everything was quiet, we got up and ran to our car.”

Jolly remembers Dorman basketball and softball teammates among the crowd, along with students from Byrnes and Spartanburg High. She said nothing inside the restaurant seemed to be amiss before the shooting.

“The shots were out of nowhere,” she said. “There was nothing suspicious before that I saw. There are always lots of groups outside.”

Jolly said she didn’t recall seeing any of the injured on her way out of the restaurant.

“I was just trying to get my friends with me and get to safety as fast as we could,” she said.

What happened

Cook Out reopened for business Saturday morning, though some employees were still visibly shaken.

Mike Santacrose, the restaurant's regional manager, said the store is cooperating with the Spartanburg Police Department's investigation, and the store's corporate office would provide any surveillance video of the incident to police if needed.

Santacrose said it wasn't unusual to have large crowds on Friday nights after high school football games.

The shooting caught everyone by surprise, he said.

"It was crazy. We've never had any fights like that here before," Santacrose said. "Our employees heard the gunshots outside and got to safety."

Santacrose said employees and customers inside took cover during the shooting and were not injured. The store's manager directed employees to go to the back of the building.

One Cook Out employee, who did not want to give her name, told the Herald-Journal shortly after the shooting that she was inside the restaurant near the milkshake machine when she heard a barrage of gunshots outside that lasted about 30 seconds. She said she looked outside and saw two groups of people shooting at each other.

Santacrose said the restaurant would have police security on Friday nights moving forward.

The shooting occurred in the parking lot after a fight had occurred, according to Spartanburg Police Maj. Art Littlejohn.

Officers responded to the scene at about 11:30 p.m. Friday, within minutes of 911 receiving a shots fired call. Littlejohn said the victims' ages ranged from 16 to 24, and a majority of them were innocent bystanders. Some of the victims — one female and five males — were taken to the hospital by EMS, while others were taken in private vehicles, Littlejohn said.

During the shooting, three vehicles were also damaged in the parking lot from the exchange of gunfire. A white SUV parked in front of the nearby Dollar General had a bullet hole in the passenger side of the windshield.

No arrests had been made as of Saturday night, and police were working to identify those involved. Littlejohn said officers were able to recover valuable evidence from the scene.

The shooters never entered the store, he said.

'Running for their lives'

Christopher Williams of Spartanburg went to the Cook Out on Saturday afternoon to show his support for the employees still shaken by the shooting.

His 16-year-old daughter, Caigan Williams, was inside the restaurant when the shooting occurred. She had just finished cheering at the home football game Friday night at Dorman High School and decided to go to Cook Out with her cheerleader friends to eat and socialize.

Williams said he and his wife attended the game and watched Caigan cheer and left waiting for her to come home later.

"When she came in, the first thing she said was sorry for getting home late but there was a shooting at Cook Out," he said.

It took a few moments for Williams to realize exactly what his daughter was saying.

"It startled me to hear she was in an environment of gun violence and shooting and that someone was shot and could have been possibly killed," Williams said.

Williams said his daughter described a chaotic scene inside the store when the shooting occurred. She took cover with her friends inside until the shooting stopped.

"They didn't know what to do and lost sight and track of each other," Williams said. "They were running for their lives, in essence."

He said he had a message for those involved in the shooting.

"If I had an opportunity to talk to the person that did the shooting, the first thing I think I would ask them is did they think about the consequences of what they were doing? Do they think it was a good idea just to take a gun out in the midst of a crowded parking lot and start shooting? Did they not care about the fact they could have killed someone that was innocent that didn't have anything to do with whatever they were dealing with?" Williams said.

Williams said he wouldn't allow his daughter to go to the restaurant again.

"It appears now kids can't even go and get a burger without the break out of fighting and violence," he said. "It saddened me."