Teen killed at The Peach Stand described as 'beautiful light in this dark world'

Photo courtesy Christy G. Photography
Photo courtesy Christy G. Photography
Christopher Benjamin Mendez (Source: Fort Mill Police)
Christopher Benjamin Mendez (Source: Fort Mill Police)

YORK COUNTY, SC (WBTV) - The man accused of shooting and killing a teenage girl inside the landmark Peach Stand Tuesday afternoon was identified by police as 28-year-old Christopher Benjamin Mendez.

Karson Bailey Whitesell, 19 of Rock Hill, was shot just before 4:30 p.m. at the Peach Stand on Highway 160 in Fort Mill, officials say. Whitesell died at the scene, the coroner said.

According to the Fort Mill Police Department, Mendez went into the Peach Stand and shot Whitesell, ultimately killing her. Mendez then reportedly waited at the scene until officers arrived.

Whitesell worked at the Peach Stand as a cashier.

Officers have not said what may have led to the shooting. According to Whitesell's mother, the shooting was random.

Police say the shooting was not a domestic violence incident and was not an armed robbery attempt. Officers said Whitesell and Mendez did not know each other.

"Karson was a beautiful light in this dark world. She had a heart of service and loved God, her family, and friends fiercely," Whisells parents said Wednesday. "Everyone that knew Karson loved her. She will be missed by her family and all of the community. We appreciate your prayers and support during this difficult time."

The Peach Stand released a statement Tuesday night addressing the incident and extending their condolences:

"All of us at the Peach Stand are shocked and heartbroken over this senseless act of violence, and our thoughts are with the victim's family and everyone affected. We are working closely with authorities to assist in their investigation, and ask that you please contact Fort Mill Police for information."

On Wednesday, Ron Edwards, who is the general manager of the Peach Stand, said the company is "devastated by the loss of Karson." Edwards released this statement:

"Karson was an extraordinary young woman who worked for us at the Peach Stand as a cashier since 2016. She was an emerging leader, always happy to help, and we counted on her to fill in occasionally for managers. Karson cared about her coworkers and our customers, and at 19, had already begun doing church mission work to help people she had never met but were in need. We are devastated by the loss of Karson, and have grief counselors available to meet with our staff. Our prayers are with her family and everyone affected by this tragedy.

Crime scene tape was placed around the perimeter of the business as emergency crews worked the scene.

The Peach Stand will be closed Wednesday and Thursday, a spokesperson for the business said.

Autopsy and toxicology results are pending, the coroner said.

On Thursday Goodwill, where Mendez worked, released a statement.

We are deeply saddened by this tragic event and our condolences go out to Ms. Whitesell's family and loved ones.

Mendez was taken to the Fort Mill Police Department. He was charged with murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. Bond was denied on both charges.

He is being held at the York County Detention Center.

Copyright 2018 WBTV. All rights reserved.