Seventeen people arrived at Druid City Hospital with injuries related to a shooting that occurred around 12:30 a.m. Tuesday near 4th Street and 23rd Avenue, according to DCH spokesman Brad Fisher. Authorities apprehended a suspect in Jasper, Ala. and transported him back to Tuscaloosa for questioning.
According to Fisher, five of the 17 victims suffered direct gunshot wounds. Of those, two remain in the Intensive Care Unit–one is in “critical” condition and one is in “serious” condition. The three other victims with direct wounds are in regular rooms and are in “fair” condition.
Twelve other victims have been treated and released over the course of the morning, Fisher said. The ages among the 17 victims range from early 20′s to mid-30′s. Three of the injured are UA students, according to TPD. Two of the students were among those treated and released, and one is among the three admitted to regular rooms with non-life-threatening injuries.
Ryne Chandler, a trained Emergency Medical Technician, was at 1831—next door to Copper Top on Temerson Square—when he heard the gunshots around 12:30 a.m.
“I heard the shots, and then one girl came [into 1831] limping, another guy came in and fell right to the floor with a gunshot wound to the back,” Chandler said. “I’m an EMT, so we checked him out, made sure he was still breathing…outside Copper Top, there were two or three girls with graze wounds. Then someone said that someone was bleeding in the back of Copper Top. They had someone in the back, and he had one or two shots in the leg…I spent 10 or 15 minutes treating him. [When I arrived] they had a tourniquet on his leg…there was an ungodly amount of blood.”
Chandler said Tuscaloosa Police Department responded quickly and allowed him to carry on treating the victims.
“TPD was on the scene real quick. They did a good job…as soon as I told them I was an EMT they let me take over and treat people,” he said.
Chandler said he saw six people total who were shot. The three girls were grazed, and their injuries were not life threatening. He said the nature of their wounds led him to believe they had been hit with some kind of buckshot.
“The girls that were shot, it was mostly into the lower ankles, and that’s what makes me say buckshot…it looked like they had been hit with BB’s. Small entry wounds, small exit wounds,” he said.
The other wounds Chandler treated were more serious.
“One of the wounds I saw was probably a quarter- to half-inch around. That was probably the most serious. The shot in the back took out a half-inch gash but didn’t penetrate into the abdomen,” he said.
However, Chandler said he heard more than five shots, more than a shotgun can hold. He also described the popping sound of the gunshots as continuous, more characteristic of the semi-automatic assault rifle a suspect appears to be carrying in a TPD surveillance video.
“I heard more than 5 shots. When I turned around, I wasn’t thinking gunshots…I was thinking party poppers or something,” he said.
Willie King, a senior majoring in public relations, was at Copper Top when the shooting occurred and also described the gunshots as continuous popping sounds.
“All the sudden we heard like a balloon pop – what we thought was a balloon pop – and so I ducked down a little bit, and my friend Emily ducked down with me. Then maybe two seconds later we heard ‘pop pop pop pop pop pop pop,’” King said.
“At that point we’re all getting pushed to the back and we were all trying to duck down and run at the same time. I fell down and people were like running over me and running on me, and I managed to slide away, get back up and run to the back because we all thought there was an exit at the back.”
King said there is no exit in the back of Copper Top, only a cooler, so everyone was trying to duck and hide anywhere they could. He and his friend took cover behind a speaker while everyone was trying to get in contact with the police.
“So we’re all lying down, everyone has blood on them, no one knows if they were shot or not because of the adrenaline going through all our veins,” King said. “We laid back there for I don’t know how long, it felt like an hour but it was probably like 10 or 15 minutes. The police finally showed up, we go back in the front and we see one guy on the ground bleeding.”
For Chandler, the early morning incident was like a flashback to the aftermath of the EF4 tornado that struck Tuscaloosa on April 27, 2011.
“I was in 1831, just playing the basketball game,” he said. “Then it was back to April 27, trying to find out what’s going on, going from just hanging out to trying to help people.”
TPD sent an alert on the shooting via Twitter around 1:22 a.m., and as of 3 a.m. there was no suspect in custody. There will be no official updates from TPD until a press briefing at 10 a.m.
Anyone with further information is asked to call 205-349-2121.
Updates on the Tuesday morning shooting: