GREENSBORO, N.C. — Greensboro Police are investigating the death of a restaurant owner as a homicide.
61-year-old Mark Freedman was found dead in the parking lot of Mark's Restaurant in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Officers said he had been shot and they are still searching for a suspect.
Police told WFMY News 2's Grace Holland they are not releasing any details about the timeline leading up to Freedman's death.
Those who knew said the community lost a great chef and a great person.
"Mark really loved everyone," said Matt Logan, "He might give you a hard time a little more if he loved you more."
Logan was a family friend of Freedman for about 20 years. They met when Logan's mother worked as a hostess at Freedman's previous restaurant, Mark's on Westover. Matt Logan worked for him as a dishwasher as a teen.
"I was gonna go up there today. I was gonna take a coworker to meet him," Logan said, "It's sad because he was such a large character so it's a large hole."
Those who knew him said friends, workers and customers were all part of of Freedman's family.
"Sometimes I didn't know if I should take him seriously with his sense of humor, he was just always joking," Felicia Brown said.
Brown also met Freedman when he owned Mark's on Westover. They bonded over being small business owners during her weekly visits to the restaurant. They remained friends through the years but she saw him less frequently after moving out of the county.
"A few weeks ago my husband and I joined a group of friends there for a birthday party," Brown said, "I actually got to visit with Mark while we were there. He was just his same old self, a little rough around the edges but always happy to see you, a smile on his face and a glass of wine in his hand so he was having a good night."
The shock isn't wearing off yet as his loved ones grieve.
"It's just a gut punch," Brown said.
"I had to read it three times to think, wow. How did that happen," Mary Lacken said.
Lacken is a longtime Greensboro restaurant owner who knew Freedman professionally.
"I just don't think that anybody deserves to be shot in their own parking lot," Lacken said, "I certainly hope they get to the bottom of it."
Logan and Brown said closure will not come easily.
"Finding the person that did it, it won't make a difference because you can't bring him back," Brown said.
Brown said she plans to honor Freedman by cooking one of his recipes and having a glass of wine.
Others said there may be a memorial held at the restaurant to honor him this weekend.
If you have any information about this case you can call Greensboro/Guilford Crime Stoppers at 336-373-1000.