Shootings in Tuscaloosa leave multiple people shot

By Jay Reeves and Jeff Martin/The Associated Press

UPDATE: TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Police say an Alabama man accused of opening fire on crowded downtown bar has now been charged in an earlier shooting.

Authorities say one person was injured in the shooting at a home a couple of miles away from the bar, and 17 people were hurt at the nightclub rampage.

Tuscaloosa police said Nathan Van Wilkins was charged Tuesday with 18 counts of attempted murder and is being held on $2 million bond.

Wilkins is also suspected of intentionally setting three fires on equipment or property that belonged to his former employer, an oil and gas company.

Police say they are not sure what led to the rampage and fires.

It’s not clear whether Wilkins has an attorney. A lawyer who represented him in a bankruptcy case did not return a phone call.

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A gunman who fired into a crowded bar and wounded nearly a dozen people turned himself in Tuesday, several hours after the rampage rattled the nearby University of Alabama campus, police said.

The man went to a business about 45 miles north of the shooting in Tuscaloosa and told employees he was the suspect, Police Chief Steve Anderson said. The workers called police and he was taken into custody.

The police chief would not identify the man. Anderson said he still doesn’t know what the motive is, but authorities were investigating whether it involved a dispute between rival motorcycle gangs.

Police also said they believed the rampage was connected to an earlier shooting at a home a couple of miles away from the bar. One person was injured in that shooting.

“We feel certain that we will be able to connect the dots with this individual,” Anderson said.

The gunman stood outside of the Copper Top bar for a few moments around 12:30 a.m. Tuesday and targeted someone inside before firing through a window, police said. Customers immediately ran or crawled away, and the gunman opened fire again with a military-style assault weapon.

Witnesses at the bar described a bloody and chaotic scene, with glass and debris flying around the nightclub.

Rachel Studdard was sitting on a patio with a group of friends, enjoying 50-cent draft beer when the shooting started.

“We heard firecracker sounds. All of a sudden somebody was like, ‘Is that gunfire?'” said Studdard, who recently graduated a two-year college and plans to attend the university in the fall. “They shot in one area and then they started shooting directly where we were.”

A bullet hit Studdard’s toe, and debris hit her in the side and in the leg. Her foot throbbed Tuesday, she said, and she was using crutches to walk. She still had dried blood on her leg.

The shots fired 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.

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.

Two people were in intensive care, one in critical condition and the other in serious condition, Fisher said. Three people were in fair condition and the others were treated and released.

At least three of the injured were university students.

Outside the bar Tuesday, 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, the music in the bar continued to play for several minutes until someone turned it off.

The gunman walked away, down the same street he walked up to get to the bar, Anderson said.

It appeared he shot through the glass of the front double French doors and a side door. The front doors were covered by a black material and two windows were missing from the wooden frames.

Surveillance video showed the man carrying a gun and walking along a sidewalk.

At the home of the earlier shooting, yellow police tape surrounded the single-level, brown ranch-style house. The front window was broken out and three police cars were parked outside. A motorcycle was parked in the garage.