Contains descriptions of VIOLENCE
My partner and I arrived at Club Q at exactly 11:45 according to GPS. We walked in, paid the cover and briefly spoke to the woman at the door. We saw an elderly gentleman come in behind us looking fly as fuck with a walking cane, and made our way to the bar. Our friend Derrick greeted us at the bar with a smile and began pouring my partner’s regular drink before he asked for it. I turned to speak to another friend behind the bar who asked to meet us on the smoker’s patio. After getting my beer, Derrick told us he would meet us outside in a moment and walked away. It would be the last time we speak to him. We walked to the smoker’s patio and met our friend there. She introduced us to a friend of hers and we began talking, (I swear I’m not making this up) about folk punk and the Suburbanists, and We The Heathens patches on his pants, and the Pat the Bunny and Mischief Brew patches on my kilt. I had exactly two sips of my drink before the gunshots started.
It sounded like a banging coming from inside, like someone was trying to get everyone’s attention. So, everyone looked at the door to the patio expectedly and froze that way when the banging didn’t stop. My partner saw the flashes of the muzzle moments before a person came barreling through the glass door that shattered behind him. I remember him scrambling on his hands and knees on the ground like mad, desperate to crawl away from the gunfire. This later turned out to be our friend Derrick, on his way out to meet us.
Everyone reacted at once. There were screams coming from inside the building now. I distinctly remember dropping my glass like it bit me. My partner upended a sofa that we and several others immediately put between ourselves and the open door. I looked up across from me to where I knew a door to the outside patio would be, and saw several people crowded and crouched down in front of it. I darted for it, maneuvered around the people and found myself at the door. I remember hearing someone behind me frantically whispering, “open it” so I reached down and lifted the garage door up and over my head, and whispered, “Go!”
We fled out the door and poured into the small courtyard, fully enclosed by a wooden fence with no gate. I ran across the open space, stepped up onto a long bench that backed up against the fence, and vaulted myself over it. I found myself standing on a giant wooden spool that left the fence behind me coming up to my waist. I turned around and my partner was standing on the bench. I thrust my hand into his and helped him climb up and over. He turned back around as well, and together we helped several other people climb over the fence. Every person I saw coming out the garage door to the patio I expected to be the shooter, and I expected to be his first target. At one point, I looked over my shoulder in anxiety that the shooter might be coming up behind us and saw instead a figure standing huddled in the snow covered alley. I turned back around to try to help a larger woman climb over. We struggled briefly, but despite my best efforts she could not climb that fence. I looked up and saw people pressing themselves against the wall behind her shushing us frantically and quickly instructed her to join them.
I turned back around and discovered that there were now two huddled forms in the alley. I asked them if they were inside and if they knew what was happening. One of them said they had been shot. I asked them if they were hurt, and one of them again simply said they had been shot. I jumped down from the top of the spool as they approached. As they came into the light, I saw that one of the women had been shot in the side of the face. I tried to maintain my composure and did my best not to respond to her wound, but there is no denying that the tremendous anxiety that had been mounting up until now reached a crescendo. I did my best to tell her that it was going to be OK. I said that I have you, and that we were going to take care of them. The other woman informed us that she had been shot in the leg and was leaning heavily against my partner. We decided that it was time to hide. The four of us crouched down and huddled as close as we could to one another and to the interior of the two large spools we had just stood on top of.
I threw my left arm around the wounded woman’s shoulders to put my hand over the wound on the left side of her face. My partner was next to me applying pressure to the wound of the other woman and was speaking to her quietly. This was where I finally called 9-1-1 and looked at my phone again since arriving at the bar. The time was 11:57. While I got no answer from the call, we could already hear sirens in the distance. I hung up the phone.
The woman with the facial wound somehow managed to inform me that she had also been shot in the thigh, so I began applying pressure there with my other hand. In an effort to distract her, I asked her what her name was and if she had any children and she said yes, she is. I didn’t understand, so I asked her what she meant and she pointed to the other woman and said, “that’s my baby”. The younger woman on the other side of me was her daughter. My partner and I put their hands together in the dark and held them tight.
Moments passed like hours. A man ran by from the right and stopped in front of us. He saw us hiding there and looked back towards the way he had come. “He’s still inside,” he shouted, and ran off the other way around the building. Here, my partner and I debated with one another if we should try to make a run for it. We agreed that would include doing our best to carry the two women along with us, and decided to remain hidden instead. We heard another person jump over the fence and land on the side of the spool above us. I thought with absolute certainty that this was the killer. A larger man stepped down from the spool, turned back and noticed us, and walked directly away from us. Behind us again, we heard the sound of heavily splintering wood, and realized that someone was coming straight through the fence.
I do not know how much time we spent huddled there in the snow. I had frequent bursts of anxiety that would manifest in short bursts of hyperventilation before I was able to seize control again. I did my best to turn to the woman next to me every time afterwards to reassure her that we were going to be OK. I did not want my anxiety to cause her any more stress or anxiety because I knew that we had to remain calm and under control. The first policeman jogged past us from right to left with his gun drawn and we called out to him. He turned and looked at us before continuing quickly around the building. A little later, two police officers came from our left, beyond an open chain linked fence, dragging a person behind them by the hands. They laid him down on the ground a little ways in front of us, and ran back toward the way they had come. He lay there unmoving in the snow with his head turned away from us.
Another police officer ran up from the right and checked on the man in the snow. We called out again and said this time that we’ve got wounded. He approached us and asked us if we had been hurt. We informed him that the two women we were with had been shot, and he radioed it in. While he spoke, another police officer rushed to the man in the snow and began applying first aid. The officer in front of us crouched down on one knee and asked my partner where the younger woman had been shot. She had been shot in the upper thigh, close to the hip. When my partner removed his hand, blood pooled up under the torn clothing.
The officer looked her in the eyes and said, “This is going to hurt like shit, but it’s going to save your life”. He turned to look at my partner. “I need you to keep her from going into shock, keep her mind occupied, keep her talking.” My partner was looking her in the face and asking her simple questions in a calm voice. The officer applied a tourniquet above the bullet wound and the young woman screamed. Her mother to my left cried out for her daughter and I held their hands together again. Once the officer was done, he turned to the other woman and assessed her face and her right thigh. He looked at me and pointed to her face, “That is not nearly as dangerous as this is,” he pointed to her leg. “Keep pressure on this, don’t move.” And he rushed out of my field of vision, which at that point only included the inside of that spool and the man in front of us.
Holding her face with her left hand, the woman I was helping asked me to dial a number. This was the 2nd time I looked at my phone, the time was 12:11. A man answered and through shaky words I briefly explained that while we were now safe, that the two women we were with had been shot. I informed him that they were being treated for their wounds, and that I was not going to leave their side. I later learned that this was her husband. I told him that I would call him with an update when I had one, and hung up the phone to continue applying pressure.
In this time, three first responders were now working on the man in the snow. I saw that he had been shot in the lower back. I did not hear what he mumbled, but at one point I heard a responder quip that, “of course you’re going to be cold after being dragged through the snow and after laying in it”. Moments later, what must have been the same police officer approached us again, this time with several more officers. He looked the mother in the face as he prepared the tourniquet. “Same deal,” he said. “This is going to hurt like shit, but it’ll save your life. You,” he said pointing at me, “keep her talking.” I immediately asked if she had any other children and she said yes, a three year old. I asked her what her name was and told her that we were going to set up play-dates with my own three year old after all of this was done. She screamed as the tourniquet tightened and then it was done.
“This one’s going into shock,” another officer announced. I looked over to see the younger woman’s eyes rolling back in a head that was lolling from side to side. My partner was holding her firmly by the shoulders and began saying her name and trying to get her to speak. The officers decided then that it was time for us to be moved around to the front of the building. I asked an officer if it was done and and he said yes, “we got him”. My partner helped the young woman out of our position to shaky feet, and with the help of an officer began walking away to our right. Moments later, another officer helped the mother to her feet, and I finally stood up and realized for the first time that my hands and feet were numb. I put my arm around the woman who leaned on me heavily, and together we walked with a police officer back to the front of the building.
I heard someone crying loudly in absolute anguish before we rounded the corner. It looked like the entire police department was on the scene. A line of ambulances were parked along the side of the road. A triage had been established in the front of the club and people were seated on the sidewalk and asphalt parking lot. I saw the elderly gentleman who had walked into the club immediately after my partner and I being treated for a bullet wound. The police officer stopped in front of us to take down our information. A body was being carried out between two first responders by the hands and feet behind him and I watched as the officer spoke. Another came shortly afterwards, carried in the same manner. I interrupted the officer speaking to me and felt foolish when I asked if that person was alive. The officer looked for a moment, paused, and turned to me and said, “Oh yeah, absolutely,” in that way you speak when both parties know that you’re lying.
After getting our information, the officer left. I looked around and found my partner and the daughter of the woman next to me sitting on the curb. We sat close to them and my partner and I embraced. I then saw my friend, covered in blood but alive, standing in what appeared to be shock on the sidewalk not far from us. I called out and waved at her, relieved, and she came up to us and we embraced as well. I asked if she had been hurt and how she was doing. I also asked about our friend Derrick, and she rolled her eyes and told me that, “he has to be the center of attention right now, he’ll be fine”. And left us to go check on another friend. I would later discover that night that she had cuts all down her knees and shins. I would discover even later still that this was because she was kneeling in the glass of the patio door to apply pressure to Derrick’s fatal wound while the rest of us escaped.
Someone soon came by and marked a “+” on the mother’s forehead with a black marker, indicating that she had a tourniquet applied. There was a man laying on the ground next to us, shaking violently and I turned my head. I found that I could not focus on that person. I decided instead to focus my attention on the woman next to me and did my best to speak with her and keep the two of us calm. The constant sounds of the sobs of the people around us drowned out any conversation however.
I do not know how long we sat there waiting for the women we were with to be loaded up into an ambulance, but at some point in time first responders came to move the daughter first. I told the first responder moving her that the woman next to me was her mother and needed to be in the same ambulance. By the time we were told to move towards the ambulances the daughter was being loaded into the back of one. A police officer approached us as we limped toward the ambulance and informed me that if I was not injured that I needed to go be behind the police line they had established. I refused and told him that this woman could not speak and that I had promised her I would not leave her side until she and her daughter were in the back of the same ambulance. He allowed us to pass and I helped walk her the rest of the way towards the paramedics who finally took her from me. I asked what hospital they were being taken to and was told with a shrug, “everywhere”.
I went back to my car in a daze by myself and sat in it. I called the number that woman gave me and the same man answered the phone. I told him they had just loaded up into the back of the same ambulance, and that they were on their way to a hospital, but I didn’t know which one. The man thanked me for calling and we hung up. I called my wife and told her what happened and that we were both safe. I got out of the car and found our partner with our friend and some others I did not know. At this point there were collections of people huddled together talking and crying quietly together. Someone came by and gave us thin, shining blankets that were surprisingly warm. We related to one another our own versions of the story, and began to piece together what happened. We laughed and we cried and we held one another. We were not allowed to retrieve our car as it was now a part of a crime scene, so our friend offered to let her father drive us home. We gladly accepted and were eventually driven home. It was around 2:15 when that night finally came to a close and we walked back inside.