TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Police were searching Tuesday for a gunman who fired into a crowded downtown bar near the University of Alabama campus, hitting nearly a dozen people and critically injuring one.
The gunman stood outside of the bar for a few moments, targeted someone inside and fired through a window, Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steve Anderson said. Customers inside the Copper Top bar ran outside or crawled away, and the gunman opened fire again with a military-style assault weapon.
Police were looking into whether the bar shooting at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday was connected to a shooting about 45 minutes earlier at a home just a couple of miles away. Two people who lived there were involved in that shooting, and one was wounded, Anderson said.
Police were not sure exactly what prompted the shootings.
Witnesses at the bar described a bloody and chaotic scene, with glass and debris flying around a nightclub that caters to college students by offering 50-cent draft beer.
"We heard firecracker sounds. All of a sudden somebody was like, 'Is that gunfire?'" said Rachel Studdard, who recently graduated a two-year college and plans to attend the University of Alabama in the fall. "They shot in one area and then they started shooting directly where we were."
Studdard was sitting outside the bar on a patio with a group of her friends. She and her friends go to the bar every night for the draft beer special, she said.
Shots were firing so quickly it sounded like automatic gunfire, she said.
"There were sparks coming off the ground and then I felt a sting and I knew I'd been hit," she said.
A bullet hit Studdard's toe, and she was also hit in the side and in the leg by flying debris. Her foot was throbbing Tuesday morning, she said, and she was using crutches to walk. She still had dried blood on her leg.
The police chief said 11 people were hit by gunfire and 17 people were taking to the hospital. Most of the injured were hit by bullet fragments or debris, said Brad Fisher, a spokesman at DCH Regional Medical Center.
The two most seriously hurt were in the Intensive Care Unit, one in critical condition and the other in serious, Fisher said. Three people were in fair condition and the others were treated and released.
Outside the bar, pools of blood were still visible and a trail of bloody footprints could be seen on the sidewalk for about two blocks leading away from the nightclub.
Elizabeth Walters was inside the Copper Top when the shooting started.
"It sounded like it would never end," Walters said. "There was a lull and then it started up again."
After the shooting ended, there were bloody pools and tracks all over the floor. The music in the bar continued to play for several minutes until someone turned it off.