Shooter booked on charges of attempted murder

Nathan Domenighini
Albert Thornton, 24, of 118 E. Hines, Unit 1A3, Peoria, was arrested on one count of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of unlawful use of a weapon along with a charge for criminal damage to property after an overnight shooting at Burger King in Morton.

An overnight shooting at a local Burger King left windows shattered and employees ducking for cover after a 24-year-old man allegedly opened fire into the fast-food restaurant late Saturday night.

Morton police detectives, with the cooperation of the Peoria Police Department, arrested a suspect in the shooting Sunday.

According to reports from the Morton Police Department, multiple gunshots were fired from the outside of the Burger King, 1810 N. Morton Ave, at about midnight.

The business was closed prior to the shooting and employees were reportedly the only occupants in the building at the time of the incident.

The shooting, Morton Police Department Deputy Chief Craig Hilliard said, was allegedly the result of a domestic dispute between an employee at the Burger King and her boyfriend, Albert Thornton, the alleged shooter.

Thornton, 24, of 118 E. Hines, Unit 1A3, Peoria, was arrested on one count of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of unlawful use of a weapon along with a charge for criminal damage to property.

The incident occurred after employees at the Burger King locked its doors.

According to a police report, as employees were finishing work at the restaurant one employee heard doors to the entrance of the establishment being pulled. After approaching the door, the employee noticed a maroon Nissan Sentra parked on the main-entrance side of the building.

The employee recognized the vehicle. According to a police report, the vehicle was previously driven by that evening’s shift manager who shared it with Thornton, her ex-boyfriend.

The employee then informed the shift manager the vehicle was in the parking lot. According to one of the reports, when the shift manager approached the entry door, she noticed the car was gone and she began walking back to her office to call police when she observed gunshots coming through the drive-thru window of the restaurant.

She told police she dropped to the floor and began sliding to the back of the Burger King after she heard the shots being fired.

Employees called the Morton Police Department and maintained phone communication with dispatchers as police arrived to set a perimeter around the business. When police arrived, the shooter had already fled the scene.

Employees were instructed to exit out of the back of the restaurant after the area was secured by police.

According to a report, a witness pumping gas at a nearby gas station heard the gunshots. When the shooting ended, she said she observed a maroon compact Nissan with possibly three occupants hastily leave the parking lot and drive southbound on North Morton Avenue. She also told police she thought she saw a white female driving the vehicle.

According to a report, the shift manager recently ended a 10-month relationship with Thornton. The couple had been apart for about two weeks.

Within that time, Thornton allegedly harassed and threatened the shift manager by phone several times prior to the shooting. The shift manager filed two police reports in Morton regarding threats she received from Thornton.

The shift manager said she knew Thornton recently purchased a new pistol and he used to carry it with him.

She also reported that Thornton fired a shot into her Peoria residence a week prior to this weekend’s incident.

The shift manager said she spoke with Thornton by phone a short time before he arrived Saturday night at the Burger King.

She also was able to talk to Thornton by phone after the shooting. With police nearby, the shift manager confronted Thornton about the shooting that night, to which he said he was in Chicago at the time and would not be returning because there was “nothing for him in Peoria anymore.” The shift manager continued asking about the shooting, and Thornton maintained he was in Chicago.

Morton detectives met with officers from the Peoria Police Department later Sunday at the residence Thornton once shared with the Burger King shift manager.

Thornton was at the apartment when police arrived. When questioned, Thornton initially denied owning a gun before later changing his story. He said he recently purchased a gun at a store in Bartonville. The gun was not located during police questioning.

According to a report, detectives did notice a single bullet hole in the bathroom of the apartment. When asked about the bullet hole, Thornton said he fired it on accident while in the bathroom.

Hilliard said police are still looking for the gun that was used in the shooting. However, police did locate in the bathroom’s garbage can the manual to a gun similar to the one the shift manager described to police the night before. It was collected for evidence.

Thornton was arrested by Morton police after they obtained a search warrant to locate gunshot residue on his hands and clothes. He was booked in the Tazewell County Justice Center. Charges have not yet been filed by the Tazewell County state’s attorney.

The incident was similar to a drive-by shooting except the shooter was firing the gun while standing outside, Hilliard said.

There were four employees inside the Burger King at the time of the shooting. Nobody inside the business sustained any injuries.

“With multiple rounds that were shot and the number of employees in the business, the individuals were very fortunate they weren’t hurt,” Hilliard said.

He said, based on what the shift manager told police, Thornton showed a progressive increase in the cycle of violence he displayed toward his ex-girlfriend, which led to a possible attempt to shoot her Saturday night.

“That’s typical in a domestic-related incident,” Hilliard said. “It’s an increasing amount of violence that I see here.”

Police are still investigating who may have been in the vehicle that drove off after the incident. Hilliard said police will pursue additional arrests for the other occupants of the vehicle as they are accomplices in the shooting.

The Burger King has since re-opened.

“We here in Morton are not immune to this (type of crime),” Hilliard said. “Those things that happen in a large community do happen here.”

“We can’t put blinders up and pretend it doesn’t happen,” he said.