A North Carolina man accused of killing two relatives by crashing his car into a restaurant after Sunday church recently struggled with severe mental illness, his pastor said at a news conference Monday morning.
Austin Rammell, pastor of Venture Church in Dallas, N.C., said Roger Self, 62, was a pillar of both his church and community before severe depression and anxiety entered his life.
“What happened yesterday was not a testimony of Roger Self, but a testimony of mental illness that absolutely overtook him a little over two months ago,” said Rammell, pastor since 2002 of the church formerly known as Hardin Baptist Church.
Police say family members thought Self was going to the restroom when he got up from the table during appetizers at the Surf and Turf Lodge restaurant in Bessemer City, N.C. Suddenly, his SUV crashed through the restaurant wall, killing his daughter and daughter-in-law.
Rammell said Self recognized the early stage of oncoming depression and two-and-a-half months ago asked his son to remove guns from his house. The pastor said he worried the parishioner might try to harm himself, but no one imagined he would target his family.
“This is the opposite of who this man is,” Rammell said. “It is the opposite of what he is known for in this community.”
Rammell said family and close friends “labored intensely” trying to get him psychiatric help, but “at the end of the day, we were all unable to help our friend.”
“I pray that we as a society can finally get serious about mental health,” the pastor said. “I throw no stones, but at some point we have to be committed to end the debates and political posturing and finally get serious about this issue.”
Rammell said someone can go to an emergency room for a broken bone or a primary care doctor for a fever, but “finding actual help for mental illness is a task in itself.”
Rammell said Self told him he was taking medications for anxiety and depression and his family was trying to point him toward psychiatric help. He described the last two months as “a roller coaster” for the family that “in the last few days … went from bad to really bad.”
Self faces two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his daughter, Katelyn Self, who was a deputy with the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office, and his daughter-in-law, Amanda Self, a nurse at CaroMont Regional Medical Center. Self’s wife and son were hospitalized in critical but stable care.
Rammell said Self has been attending Hardin Baptist/Venture Church for decades and served as a volunteer youth pastor in the 1980s and 1990s.
“Roger has been an icon in this community for decades,” the pastor said. “There is a list a mile long of the people this man has sacrificed to make their lives better. He has walked with people though some of the darkest times imaginable and never once stopped to ask for credit or applause. There are people all over this area whose lives were made better by his love for Christ and for his passion for people.”