Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Wilkins charged with attempted murder 12 hours after shooting

Nathan Van Wilkins, 44, has been charged in two shooting cases that injured 18 people, including three University of Alabama students, in Northport and downtown Tuscaloosa overnight Monday. He is being held on a $2 million bond.

Six of the victims remain at Druid City Hospital, including two in critical condition – one from each shooting incident. Another is in serious condition, and three are being held for observation. None of the three UA students hurt during the shooting sustained life-threatening injuries.

Wilkins, a Northport resident, has been charged with 18 counts of attempted murder, one count of shooting into an occupied dwelling and one count of shooting into an occupied building. Seventeen of the attempted murder charges stem from victims Wilkins injured when he opened fire at 12:19 a.m. Tuesday at the Copper Top bar at Temerson Square in downtown Tuscaloosa. Less than an hour earlier, a resident was critically injured by gunfire at a Northport residence, leading to an 18th attempted murder charge.

As of late Tuesday, no motive for the shootings had been disclosed.

Willie King, a senior majoring in public relations, was at Copper Top when the shooting occurred.

“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.

“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,” King said. “The police finally showed up, we go back in the front, and we see one guy on the ground bleeding.”

Ryne Chandler, an 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 responded quickly and allowed him to continue to treat 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 appeared to have been shot. The three girls were grazed, and their injuries were not life threatening.

“The girls that were shot, it was mostly into the lower ankles,” he said. “It looked like they had been hit with BBs. Small entry wounds, small exit wounds.”

DCH spokesman Brad Fisher later confirmed that 12 people had been treated at the hospital and released over the course of Tuesday morning. Most had arrived with shrapnel wounds to their lower extremities from ricocheted bullets.

The other wounds Chandler treated were more serious.

“One of the wounds I saw was probably a quarter- to half-inch around,” he said.

“That was probably the most serious. The shot in the back took out a half-inch gash but didn’t penetrate into the abdomen.”

Chandler described the popping sound of the gunshots as continuous, characteristic of the military-style assault weapon Tuscaloosa police said Wilkins used.

Anderson said at a 1 p.m. press conference Tuesday that Wilkins did not have the weapon on him when he was taken into custody in Jasper. Police had not obtained the weapon Wilkins used at that point.

After Wilkins surrendered, police worked to connect the dots between leads they’d received from Crime Stoppers and evidence collected through a search warrant.

Although Wilkins has been charged in both the Northport and Copper Top shootings, TPD is still investigating a possible connection between the two incidents.

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