Susan Mackay was getting ready for bed late Monday night when she heard it — the rapid pop-pop-popping sound of gunshots, followed by a loud boom.
Then her power went out.
The Columbus native said she dropped to the floor in her bathroom. She said she already knew the sounds outside her home on Seventh Street South were gunshots, because she’d heard the same sounds in a drive-by shooting on a Friday evening in February earlier this year.
One of her neighbors, who lives on the corner where Seventh Street intersects with Fifth Avenue, said he and his wife woke up to the same sounds — loud gunfire followed by several “explosions,” which he now thinks was the sound of a vehicle in the area hitting trees and mailboxes.
“I wasn’t going to come out here because people were shooting,” said the neighbor, who did not want to be named due to safety concerns. “… It was crazy. It was like nothing I’ve ever heard.”
Outside, two vehicles had been involved in a chase, with at least one individual from the pursuing car firing at the first vehicle. The shooter hit the driver of the first car, causing him to lose control and veer off the road onto the sidewalk. From there, the vehicle mowed down a small Japanese magnolia tree Mackay had planted, hit her next-door neighbor’s mailbox, clipped several trees and finally collided with a light pole at the intersection of Seventh and Fifth. The pole fell, going through the car’s windshield and causing power outages to area residences.
Witnesses told The Dispatch the people in the wrecked car got out and scattered throughout the street, looking for someone to ask for help or a place to hide. The injured driver collapsed in the corner of a nearby yard and remained there while police, paramedics and one firetruck all responded to the multiple 911 calls from neighbors who heard the commotion.
Police Chief Fred Shelton said the victim was taken to an out-of-town hospital with severe injuries, and investigators are currently searching for suspects in the case. He did not have the victim’s status as of this morning, but said the three passengers in the car with him — none of whom were injured — have not been cooperating with police.
“We’ve talked to the people in the neighborhood and they’ve been very cooperative,” Shelton said. “However, the victims and the rest of those involved have not been cooperative.”
Tuesday afternoon, shards of glass and parts of the wrecked cars bumper still littered the curb and the intersection, and neighbors called to each other from the street or from their front porches to ask how the other was doing. In answer to a question from two pedestrians who stopped to talk to her, Mackay pointed to a fresh bullet hole in her home’s exterior just above her porch.
“It’s disheartening,” Mackay said. “It’s unnerving to go through something like this because this is a beautiful neighborhood. Lovely neighbors. Everybody’s nice, we know each other, we’re cordial, we check on each other. To have this kind of stuff going on … it’s sad that that’s what this world has come to.
“I know it’s not just all Columbus,” she added. “We’re not the only one. We’re seeing this nationwide, but still, it’s unnerving when you live in a nice little town in a nice neighborhood and all this happening.”
‘If the community works together’
It’s the second time since February that neighbors reported a drive-by shooting on that stretch of Seventh Avenue. The other took place just before 6 p.m. on Feb. 19 and prompted several residents to speak at a city council meeting, raising concerns about what they felt was growing crime in their area. Police are also investigating a Feb. 28 shooting from further south on Seventh Street that injured four people.
“We’re starting to (feel unsafe) in this area,” said Mackay’s neighbor. “We’re ready to sell. … But where are you going to go? It’s not like any other part of the city is immune to random drive-bys. But it shouldn’t be this common … in this part of this neighborhood.”
Other residents The Dispatch spoke to said they don’t believe the shooter was anyone from their neighborhood, nor do they generally feel unsafe in the area, especially during the day. However, three shootings within four months have some of them unsettled.
“It’s our home,” said another neighbor near the intersection. “… I could cut a loss and sell the house if I wanted to, if it came down to it. Here we are three times in less than four months. Three times. I don’t know.”
Mackay said she believes these are isolated incidents.
“I still think this is a nice neighborhood. You’ve still got some great neighbors that live here,” she said. “I just think we’ve had some unfortunate incidents close together.”
Shelton has asked area residents and others who know about the shooting to contact CPD to give information — not just in this shooting, but other violent crimes as well.
“When the community sees things that’s of a suspicious nature, call the police, let us investigate, and try and document as much as you can,” he said, adding witnesses can specify information like vehicle descriptions and tag numbers are “always helpful.”