The restaurant run by the family of slain Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Darnell Calhoun reopened Wednesday morning, Feb. 1, and the community welcomed the business back with open arms.
Calhoun’s Family Texas Barbeque, closed immediately after the deputy was killed Friday, Jan. 13. Calhoun was responding to a domestic-violence call near Lake Elsinore when the suspected shooter, Jesse C. Navarro, shot and killed him, authorities said.
Customers enjoy lunch outside Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, as other customers wait in line to order food at Calhoun Family Texas Barbeque in Murrieta. Run by the family of slain Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Darnell Calhoun, the restaurant reopened after the deputy was killed on duty in January. Tables were set up outside to accommodate expected crowds. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, The Sun/SCNG)
Lonnie and Renee Calhoun, the parents of slain Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Darnell Calhoun, speak Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, to the news media as they reopen their Murrieta restaurant that has been closed since the shooting last month. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, The Sun/SCNG)
Customers wait in a line Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, at Calhoun Family Texas Barbeque in Murrieta. The restaurant, owned by the family of slain Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Darnell Calhoun, reopened Wednesday after being closed since the deputy was killed on duty in January. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, The Sun/SCNG)
Customers wait Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, as an order is delivered by volunteer Zulma Henry at Calhoun Family Texas Barbeque in Murrieta. The restaurant reopened after closing when Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Darnell Calhoun was killed on duty in January. His parents run the eatery, which set up outdoor seating to handle the expected crowds. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, The Sun/SCNG)
In anticipation of crowds, the family set up tables and chairs in the restaurant’s parking lot. Social media posts encouraged well wishers to bring their own chairs as well.
The line continues to grow, out the door and around the building.
In the parking lot are tables and chairs where customers can enjoy their food tailgate style. pic.twitter.com/QEwG480mnb
— Monserrat Solis (@MonserratSolis_) February 1, 2023
The Washington Avenue business reopened at 11 a.m. and it didn’t take long before the line was out the door and around the building.
An Instagram post from the Calhoun family thanked the community and professed faith in God.
“Words cannot express how much we’ve been encouraged to continue to trust the Lord,” the post states. “Just seeing all of you come alongside our family reminds us that God is in control.”
A few minutes before the restaurant opened its doors, Darnell Calhoun’s mother, Renee Calhoun, said she was “waiting for reality to set in.”
“I’ve been strengthened by my church and the Lord,” Renee Calhoun said. “And having lots of scripture.”
She called Wednesday an emotional day, given the details of reopening a business while “dealing with the loss of a child.”
Within six minutes of opening, customers had already been served.
Volunteers with black aprons brought black trays stacked with black containers to customers seated in the parking lot as the smell of marinated meat wafted in the air.
Mike Maples, 66, and Kelly Maples, 63, who have lived in Murrieta for more than 30 years, came out for lunch to “support the family in their time of need,” Mike Maples said.
They planned to order their favorite item on the menu: the brisket.
About 30 customers had already arrived, forming a line out the restaurant door.
“It’s an amazing community, isn’t it?” Kelly Maples said. “This is amazing.”
Among those showing up for barbecue meal were off-duty police officers and retired law enforcement officers.
Edward Saucerman, 54, a private investigator and retired police officer said “anytime there is an incident, we have to support them … any contribution we can make is a win … We always support each other.”
The outpour of support from the community — including cards, flowers and balloons left at the restaurant since the day after the shooting — has been constant.
Hundreds attended two vigils for Calhoun, one in Lake Elsinore outside the sheriff’s station where he worked and another in Murrieta at a park. Both drew huge crowds for events that featured speeches, music and prayers.
A Go Fund Me page created for the restaurant has almost quadrupled its goal of $10,000. Another fundraiser, organized by the Riverside County Deputy Sheriff’s Relief Foundation, surpassed its goal of $250,000 for the Calhoun family.
Also, Calhoun’s widow, Vanessa, accepted a mortgage-free home from the nonprofit Tunnel to Towers Foundation, a news release states.
On Wednesday, the Calhoun’s also received a small memorial of their son.
A 120-pound concrete bench featuring a photo of Darnell Calhoun in his sheriff’s uniform was donated to the family and taken inside the eatery. It came from Rapid Set, a concrete manufacturer and Home Depot.
“It’s the least we can do,” said Luis Gonzalez, district manger of Rapid Set.
Before customers arrived, Renee Calhoun marveled at the public’s support of the family.
“It feels amazing, it feels like we’re so loved and well taken care of by our community,” she said. “The community is awesome.”