|Page (1) of 1 - 07/18/12||email article||print page|
APNewsBreak: Witness says Ala. rampage started with gunman looking for black man, using slur
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) ¯¯¯ The roommate of a man wounded in an Alabama shooting rampage said Wednesday that the violence started when the gunman came to their door looking for a black man, used a racial slur and opened fire.
The witness also said the black man had been at the Tuscaloosa bar where later shootings wounded 17. Authorities said they weren't yet able to verify a racial motive.
Nathan Van Wilkins has been charged with 18 counts of attempted murder and will also face arson charges in the spree that included fires set at property owned by his former employer. It's not clear what may have made him lash out, but he was recently fired from his job because of a fistfight, had filed for bankruptcy last year and was divorced in 2005.
Brian Felton lives at the house where authorities say Wilkins wounded his first victim before going to the Copper Top bar near the University of Alabama campus. Felton said a man he lives with, who is white, answered the door late Monday and the gunman asked for another roommate, who's black.
Felton said he heard the gunfire and found the white roommate bleeding. His wounded roommate told him that the gunman had asked for the third roommate using the racial epithet.
A detective for the sheriff's department said they hadn't been able to verify whether the target of the shootings had been at the house and the bar.
"We haven't had anything concrete that it was racial," said Sgt. Kip Hart.
Felton is president of the Tuscaloosa chapter of the Legion of Doom Motorcycle Club. He and the roommate who was shot, Bruce Bankhead, own a tattoo parlor together and live in the home that's considered the group's club house with their other roommate, Andrew Clements.
Neither Felton nor Bankhead know Wilkins, and they're not aware that he's affiliated with any motorcycle group, Felton said. Police said they'd ruled out motorcycle gang violence as a reason for the shooting.
Felton, a 33-year-old military veteran, was in his room watching television Monday night when he heard their doorbell ring repeatedly, then voices, a scuffle and two bursts of multiple gunshots. He went out to see what happened and found Bankhead bleeding.
"That's when he fell through the door and said he'd been shot," Felton said.
After the shooting, Felton said he found that someone had scratched "KKK" into the hood of his pickup truck. Clements had been with the brother of Wilkins' ex-wife earlier the night of the shootings. Clements left the Copper Top before gunfire broke out there and wasn't wounded.
"Even Andrew doesn't know why he's upset with him," Felton said.
Wilkins' motive wasn't clear, but but he had a history of several violent outbursts and legal scrapes dating back to the 1980s. On Wednesday, he was on suicide watch after telling investigators he had hoped that officers responding to the shooting would kill him. No date has been set for his first court hearing.