Survivor of Shooting at Hooters Speaks Out

By: Mike McCarthy
By: Mike McCarthy

Knoxville (WVLT) - A bullet to the chest could've taken his life. Now his quick-thinking has friends calling him a hero.

Kris Key is the manager who was shot when an upset customer opened fire on West Knoxville Hooters last month.

Volunteer TV's Mike McCarthy is the first TV reporter to talk with him after the shooting.

He came home from the hospital monday. He still can barely move his left arm. One customer was killed after police say David Rudd opened fire, but co-workers say what Key did that night saved numerous other lives.

"It was really scary," Key said.

The ride Kris Key won't forget.

"You're thinking in your head. I just got shot," Key said.

The memory's marked by a bullet hole just inches from his heart.

"At one point I remember laying face down on the ground, just thinking, yeah, this is it," Key said.

He was the Assistant Manager on duty when David Rudd visited Hooters on Kingston Pike two weeks ago.

"When he left, the bartender said, hey, that guy didn't pay for his whole tab," Key said.

A 20 dollar bar tab that sparked an argument. The Karate black belt waived the bill and told Rudd to leave.

Key escorted Rudd back outside. That's when police say Rudd reached in his backpack and pulled out a .40 caliber handgun and opened fire back inside the restaurant. Just before he did, Key locked the door.

"I didn't even know if my arm was connected. It hit me so hard," Key said.

"He was in God's hands," Kris's mother, Jo Key, said.

Worried he would die, his first tattoo gave him new hope.

"Its like I need to strop yelling for help for a minute and start praying," Key said.

Now after 9 nine days at U-T Medical Center, the 24-year-old is recovering at his mom's Maryville Home.

"I think there's a purpose to his life. I don't think he's fulfilled that yet," Jo Key said.

"I think he's a hero. He was able to lock the door and prevent that lunatic from coming inside the restaurant," Hooters General Manager Nick Hilbrich said.

Knoxville Police say Rudd's bullets did kill another customer - Stacey Sherman.

"I just wish I had like 3 more seconds to say, get back or I think this guy's dangerous," Key said.

Police confronted and killed Rudd December 30th.

"I felt sorry for his family. I'm just glad we don't have to worry about him doing the same thing to somebody else," Key said.

Limp on a pillow..

"I cant feel them yet. But I can move them," Key said.

Key's working to get the arm back.

"It hurts pretty bad though," Key said.

...that gave him the hope to live.

"I just think I did what I was supposed to do," Key said.

Key is left-handed. So on top of everything, learning how to use his right hands been an added challenge.

Key is not sure when, or even if, he'll return to work at Hooters. He says he'll always think about this anytime a customer gets angry.

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