Close friends said goodbye to the 78-year-old gunman in the Mesquite Square apartment complex shooting in Abilene Municipal Cemetery on Friday, two weeks after his death following the shooting.
John Lee, who worked at ACU in the Bean for about 10 years until 2008, opened fire on Hardin-Simmons University senior Jacob Allen on September 7, before Allen’s co-worker, Joshua Steed, struck the gunman with a chair, disabling him. Lee later died in the hospital.
Theresa Flores, a friend of and former co-worker in the World Famous Bean with Lee, said that she wants people to know his final actions are not true representations of his character or his demeanor.
“When I heard the news of his death and the shooting, it really shocked me,” Flores said. “The John Lee my family and I knew was not a mean or hateful person.”
Flores had worked with Lee for 10 years before leaving the Bean to become a professional hairdresser. Another former co-worker in the Bean, Bruce Grimes, echoed Flores’ description of Lee’s personality.
“He was a very gentle man,” Grimes said. “He was courteous and concerned for other people. Theresa’s kids called him Grandpa.”
Neither Grimes nor Flores could offer an explanation for the shooting.
“About a week before he died he told me that he was really upset about something, even that he was ready to shoot someone,” said Grimes. “I never could find out what the problem was, and the thought of John Lee shooting anyone was hard for me to comprehend. Something was definitely wrong.”
The ACU Dining Services office had no comment on the incident or Lee’s death.
Flores said that she didn’t have the opportunity to see Lee as often as she’d have liked after she moved to Dallas a few years ago, but she did try to visit him less than a month ago with no success.
“His welcome mat outside his door was gone, and he didn’t answer his phone,” she said. “I knew something was wrong but I never got to talk to him. Then about a week later I got the call from a friend that something bad had happened.”
Allen was released from the hospital last week and expects to almost fully recover within the next few months.
Flores said she’ll never know why Lee targeted Allen, but she extended her thoughts for his family and his recovery.
“I am glad he’s doing well, and I’m sorry for the way all this happened,” she said. “I knew [Lee] wanted to leave his apartment and that he was unhappy about something, but what he did was wrong. It’s a sad story.”