3 locals were at Tuscaloosa shooting

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 19, 2012




Three Covington County natives were at the Copper Top Bar on Tuesday morning when a Northport man peppered the bar with gunfire, and one received a minor injury.

Opp’s Riley Dunn said Wednesday he was at a pool tournament with Opp native and friend Justin McDaniel and McDaniel’s wife, Heather Cross McDaniel of Andalusia.

“The reason why we were there in the first place was because of the pool tournament,” he said. “It’s free to get in, it gives us something to do and you can win some money.”

Dunn said he wasn’t drinking alcohol.

“It was just a normal night for us,” he said. “I had just got done watching Justin play, and we were watching the next group. It was nothing out of the ordinary. There were a few camp coaches there, but it was not a rowdy crowd.”

Dunn said around 12:30 a.m., he heard something that sounded like someone knocked over a table.

“That was the first gunshot,” he said. “The guy who went down was at the bar. When we saw the guy go down, I tried to go out the front of the building. Little did I know that the shooter was outside going to the front. I never got a visual of the guy.”

Dunn described the sound like firecrackers going off, except it was bullets.

“I remember my mind was processing gunshots when people were shouting fireworks,” he said. “But I couldn’t say anything. Bullets were ricocheting, and all this is going on as I’m trying to run into the bar. The shrapnel or a ricocheting bullet hit me in my calf. The pain was bad, but it was bearable. I took cover next to some dumpsters behind the bar.

“I kept hearing the bullets whizzing around,” he said. “Once that subsided, I started worrying about my friends. I ran back in there looking for my friends. I remember seeing blood trails. Like something if you were trailing a deer.”

Dunn described a sense of panic within all of those at the bar.

“No one knew what was going on,” he said. “Everyone knew it was a shooting, but no one knew who had the gun. Some thought it was someone in the bar. I was still kind of nervous as to who I talked to. All of my friends were OK. We waited around and tried to help those who were severely injured.”

Dunn said he didn’t think his injury was that bad.

“The only thing was that it wouldn’t quit bleeding,” he said. “It was puddling up in my shoe. I have two pieces left in my legs, I have to get it taken out next week.”

Dunn said he didn’t get out of the emergency room until 4 a.m.

“I think I got maybe an hour of asleep before the Tuscaloosa Sheriff’s office was calling. Then I had a 10 a.m. class that I had to attend.”

Dunn said through all the events happening so quickly, he didn’t have time to get “scared.”

He said his “survival mode” kicked in gear.

“I think survival mode is a good word,” he said. “I knew what was going on, but I felt really out of control. I wouldn’t use the word scared. I was fearful. I was trying to get out the way. I had so many emotions going through me. Most was anger. I kept thinking, ‘Why would someone have a gun in a bar? Why? Why? Why? Save that for other places.’”

Police have charged 44-year-old Nathan Van Wilkins with 18 counts of attempted murder. The charges account for the 17 people wounded at the bar and another person shot beforehand at a home.