The New York Post has reported that Lowell Hawthorne, founder of the Golden Krust Jamaican beef patty empire, killed himself amid fears the authorities were investigating him for evading millions of dollars in taxes.
It said a law-enforcement source disclosed on Sunday that family members told detectives that Hawthorne, 57, admitted the huge tax debt to some of his relatives, and was acting strange in the hours before his suicide
The source said surveillance video shows Hawthorne shooting himself in the head at his office inside the Golden Krust bakery and warehouse in The Bronx.
Before the shooting, the video shows Hawthorne speaking with two workers who left the room.
The source said the Jamaican businessman left a note in which he apologized to his family.
Sources said his younger brother, Milton Hawthorne, met cops who arrived at the Golden Krust plant about 5:15pm on Saturday in response to a 911 call about an emotionally disturbed person armed with a gun.
His death is still causing shock and sadness in New York and Jamaica.
Hawthorne, who migrated to the United States with his family in the 1980’s, opened the first Golden Krust store in 1989. He went on to create more than 120 restaurants in nine states.
The New York Times says visitors on Sunday left flowers at the entrance to the Park Avenue building where Hawthorne shot himself.
Family members and managers were seen hugging each other before an emergency staff meeting.
Steven Clarke, his nephew and the spokesman for Golden Krust, said after the meeting: “As much as we’re mourning, as much as we are trying to understand how we are where we are, we do have to assure our franchisees that we are equipped internally to carry on our uncle’s mission.”
Clarke said he last saw his uncle on Friday at a family gathering for an aunt who was celebrating her birthday and he was his usual self.
Meanwhile, Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Audrey Marks, has expressed shock, disbelief, and sadness at Hawthorne’s death.
In a statement Sunday night, she said Hawthorne was the most visible member of the Jamaican/ Caribbean American community.
Marks said his journey as an entrepreneur served as a great inspiration to countless individuals, communities, and businesses since the first Golden Krust operation was opened in The Bronx, New York, in 1989.