Close to home: Charlottesville reacts to Orlando massacre

Someone fired a gun on the Corner Saturday night.
File photo: Martyn Kyle Someone fired a gun on the Corner Saturday night. File photo: Martyn Kyle

 

A shot rang out in front of Eddy’s Tavern on the Corner after a dispute had taken place within the establishment Sunday, June 12 at 1:34am. Not even 30 minutes later, rounds of gunfire were unleashed in Orlando, an assault that is now lamented as one of the worst attacks since 9/11, and the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

The incident at Eddy’s began to brew with a noticeable disagreement between two people that broke out into a dispute near the patio, according to a release. Several minutes later, a gunshot was fired outside the restaurant. Charlottesville Police officers on foot patrol quickly responded and were met with a huge crowd at the scene, but the suspect, described as an African-American male in his early 20s with a stocky build wearing a white tank top, had already fled.

“Police were here right away for everyone’s safety,” says James Tharpe, head chef at Eddy’s. “No hysteria, no running, nothing like that took place. We still had our doors open because it was before 2 in the morning, but we [also] kept doors open so the police could come in and speak to individuals.”

Another report of gunshots occurred around 5am Sunday on Cherry Avenue. And less than a week earlier on June 7, officers were dispatched to Gordon Avenue. Students were notified of the gunman threat on Gordon and were instructed to avoid the area.

A public safety substation debuted in January on the Corner as a resource to help students who find themselves in high-risk situations.

“The reception area exists as a place for students that need to get home or if they don’t feel safe,” says Jerry Leon, substation program coordinator. “We can provide escorts for them, we can call cabs for them. Reception is here 24/7.”

Virginia is no stranger to gun violence and the Orlando nightclub shooting has now displaced the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre as the deadliest shooting by a sole gunman within the United States.

“It’s a terrible crime,” says Delegate Rob Bell. “Obviously we’re keeping these families in our prayers. It’s a terrorist incident on our soil,” Bell says he’d need to know more details about the Orlando investigation when asked about legislation to prevent this from occurring in Virginia.

“We are stunned by this senseless act of violence because Orlando could have been any one of our communities,” says 5th District congressional candidate Jane Dittmar. “It is a reminder of how easy it is for people who have deadly intentions to shoot Americans in a church, a school, a movie theater and now a nightclub. This was not just an attack on Floridians, it was an attack on all of us—on what defines us as a country.”

The shooter, Omar Mateen, pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State over a 911 phone call before committing the mass shooting. According to the New York Times, Mateen had been the subject of two investigations with the FBI for possible links to terrorism prior to the catastrophe, yet he was still able to legally purchase an assault weapon and held a firearms and a security-officer license.

The Islamic Society of Central Virginia strongly condemned the recent shootings in Orlando in a statement. “This attack does not represent the values or teachings of the Islamic faith or of the Muslim community and we stand united against any and every criminal act of this sort. We send our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the deceased at this extremely difficult time.”

Cville Pride is hosting a candlelight vigil at 7:30 pm tonight at the Free Speech Monument on the Downtown Mall.