FORT WORTH — A potential mass shooting at a fast-food restaurant was averted Tuesday night when a would-be robber’s gun malfunctioned as he pulled the trigger multiple times, police said.When the gunman stepped outside and tried again, shots rang out, prompting one officer to suggest that divine intervention played a role in the outcome.Fort Worth police say surveillance video captured the man pulling the trigger at least five times as he pointed his gun at people inside the McDonald’s at 4800 South Freeway while demanding their property.Twice the man went outside and successfully fired the gun, once into the air and later toward a passing car. No one reported being injured, and responding officers soon arrested a suspect, identified as 24-year-old Jestin Anthony Joseph of Allen in Collin County.Police could not explain why the gun didn’t fire inside the store.“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” said robbery Sgt. Joe Loughman. “It must not have been their time to go.”About four hours before the robbery, Joseph’s mother had gone to the Allen police station and told officers that she feared her son was suicidal.The mother, who asked not to be identified to shield herself and her other children from any repercussions, said she alerted Allen police after her son told her over the phone that people were after him.“He said, ‘They’re trying to kill me, Mama! I’m going to die tonight! I’m going to die tonight!’” the mother recounted in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.The mother said she believes that her son had a mental breakdown, just as his father did a few years ago. She said she believes it runs in his father’s family.“The only thing I can say to you is that was not my son yesterday,” the mother said. “He was not in his right mind.”Joseph’s mother said she believes the gun malfunctioned “because we were praying.”“Last night, I told God to keep Jestin, and that’s what I do believe happened,” she said. “I did not know he even had a gun.”‘The weapon does not fire’Loughman said at least 15 employees and patrons, including children, were inside the McDonald’s when the robber entered shortly after 9 p.m.Loughman said the man walked into the store, first asking for a water cup from a cashier. After walking to the beverage machine, he pulled out a semiautomatic handgun and pointed it at employees and patrons, demanding their possessions.“It appears that [he] is pulling the trigger, but the weapon does not fire,” Loughman said.At least one man tried to wrestle the gun away from the suspect, Loughman said.He said the gunman then went outside, fired a shot into the air and returned.As people continued to run from the restaurant, the man again pointed the gun at those inside and pulled the trigger. Again, Loughman said, the gun did not fire.Loughman said the man went back outside near the service road, got his gun to work and fired two rounds in the direction of a passing vehicle. The driver never stopped.“I don’t know if the vehicle was hit, but a lot of our witnesses and victims said that this guy pointed the gun at the vehicle and fired at it,” Loughman said.The suspect then ran south along the service road toward Interstate 20, tossing the gun as he fled. He was arrested shortly afterward by officers responding to the robbery.The gun was retrieved, Loughman said.Joseph was in the Mansfield Jail on Wednesday night on outstanding warrants and on suspicion of five counts of aggravated robbery, with total bail set at $500,000.Business appeared to be back to normal Wednesday evening at the restaurant. Workers declined to talk to a reporter and referred questions to corporate headquarters.In a statement Wednesday afternoon, McDonald’s USA said: “We are extremely grateful that no one was hurt during the situation that occurred on our property Tuesday evening. The safety of our customers and employees is extremely important, and we are fully cooperating with the Fort Worth Police Department in their ongoing investigation.”‘Mama, people are after me’Allen police have had dealings with Joseph about a half-dozen times since 2005, including issuing him tickets for possession of drug paraphernalia and arresting him on a narcotics-related warrant, and later for assault, according to Sgt. Jon Felty, a spokesman for the Allen Police Department.“In some of the other contacts we’ve had with him, he kind of lives a transient lifestyle,” Felty said, adding that Joseph was known to travel by bus. “He’ll come stay awhile. Then he’ll be gone a period of time. Oftentimes he seems to suffer from extreme paranoia.”Felty said a computer check Tuesday night found that Joseph was wanted on a warrant in Collin County alleging aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and on outstanding traffic warrants. As a result of the mother’s report, Felty said, officers had entered Joseph’s name in a police database as a missing person.Joseph’s mother said she was still at the Allen police station when her son, scared and frantic, called her again.“I was actually talking to a police officer when he called me for the last time,” the mother said. “I was trying to find out where he was. I asked the cop if he could trace the call. I told him, ‘Jestin, I love you.’ He was just like, ‘Mama, people are after me. People are after me.’”On learning details of the accusations against her son in Fort Worth, the mother expressed gratitude to God that no one was hurt.“I would have never in a million years thought he would have gone to that point,” she said. “I know that same spirit that grabbed ahold of his dad and took his dad mentally, grabbed Jestin. I could hear that with Jestin, in the things he was saying.” Staff writer Bill Miller contributed to this report.
Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655 Twitter: @deannaboyd