Responding to tragedy; A community stands still


By Chris Cooper - ccooper@newsdemocratleader.com



Submitted photo A stray bullet is pictured lodged into a shoe box at Hayes Shoes in Russellville. Two bullets came into the business through windows during an altercation between Russellville Police and Joesph Harris, who was left dead.


Submitted photo Bullets shatter windows at Hayes Shoe Store, as well as Pizza Hut and Russellville Donut.


Submitted photo Theresa Swallows, manager of Hayes Shoe Store, points out where one of the stray bullets landed.


Shock and disbelief are the two words used most by a community left in awe, after a tragic event shut down a small town for a day where something like what happened… well… doesn’t happen.

On Tuesday, March 15 one local man was left laying dead in a ditch, two shot and fighting for their lives, and three police officers left from the aftermath of what they are trained to do, but not easily prepared for afterwards.

Joseph Harris walked up to former girlfriend Amanda Harper’s car at the McDonald’s drive-through, shot her once and left on foot, minutes later to meet up with three Russellville Police Officers who fired on him when he refused to drop his weapon but instead turned it on them.

After the dust settled, people of the community began coming out of where they were hiding to find what was more like a war zone to them than their tiny little town.

Saxon Hale of Russellville said he couldn’t believe what he had witnessed.

“I was at the car wash and was cleaning out my car when I heard what sounded like a gun shot. I thought to myself that can’t be a gun shot, it must be kids playing with fire crackers. Then I head voices saying ‘put your gun down, put your gun down.’ I saw this guy walking with a gun in his hand. He was walking toward town. Then I heard more shots. I took cover in my car and heard more shots. When I got out to come see what had happened, I saw the guy dead on the ground,” Hale said. “It was unbelievable.”

Theresa Swallows, manager of Hayes Shoe Store, said she and her brother Bobby Grayson, who is a nurse at Logan Memorial Hospital, saw Harris jogging from McDonald’s.

“I came to visit my sister,” said Grayson, who had just left Russellville Donuts minutes before. “I was standing at the front window talking to her when I saw this guy (Joseph Harris) jogging across the street. I told my sister I thought he was either running from something or in trouble. Then I saw him grab something out of his pocket, I thought it was a cell phone at first, thinking he was going to call someone to come and get him. But then I realized it was a gun.”

Grayson said he saw Harris tapping the gun on his leg over and over. Then saw the police coming out of the bays at the car wash.

“I saw him (Harris) point his gun toward the police and then heard a pop. I told my sister to get down. After that it all happen very fast,” said Grayson. “I heard pop, pop, pop, and the glass shatter. And then more pops.”

Swallows said scared isn’t the word for how she felt.

“A lot crosses your mind when you are in a situation like this,” said Swallows. “I was worried for my brother and I was worried for what was going to happen next.”

When the shooting stopped, both Theresa and her brother Bobby got up and noticed Vanna Krang from the donut shop was laying on the ground in the parking lot bleeding from his neck. Grayson ran out and took his shirt off and covered the wound on Krang’s neck.

“He was talking to his wife, but I couldn’t understand what he was saying,” said Grayson. “This is all very sad.

Grayson said he wasn’t scared until he saw where the bullet had come into the store barely above his head.

“When I saw that, well it shook me up a bit,” Grayson said.

Antonio Smoot, who is an employee at Glistening Auto said he had never experienced anything like this before.

“I walked outside when I heard a crash. I thought it might be my daughter who just left. When I got outside I heard gunshots and took cover. Then I heard glass shattering. It’s crazy. People were coming out, but I was taking cover,” said Smoot adding, “It’s scary that it happened right here on main street. Right here in the heart of this small town.”

Shannon Knight, manager of Bluegrass Check Advance, said it all happened so fast, but it left her and her employees scared and her feeling as if she had just stepped into a bad movie.

“We heard the gunfire and then hid in the bathroom. When we came out we saw Mr. Krang running from the donut shop and falling on the pavement in front of us. We saw where the windows were broken at Hayes Shoes and we were all shocked,” said Knight. “It was unreal. This was very surreal for all of us. This is a place I never felt uneasy or any sort of fear. After yesterday, I don’t know if I will ever feel that way again. I feel like God had a hedge of protection around us.”

Submitted photo A stray bullet is pictured lodged into a shoe box at Hayes Shoes in Russellville. Two bullets came into the business through windows during an altercation between Russellville Police and Joesph Harris, who was left dead.
http://newsdemocratleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/web1_IMG_0332.jpgSubmitted photo A stray bullet is pictured lodged into a shoe box at Hayes Shoes in Russellville. Two bullets came into the business through windows during an altercation between Russellville Police and Joesph Harris, who was left dead.

Submitted photo Bullets shatter windows at Hayes Shoe Store, as well as Pizza Hut and Russellville Donut.
http://newsdemocratleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/web1_IMG_0329.jpgSubmitted photo Bullets shatter windows at Hayes Shoe Store, as well as Pizza Hut and Russellville Donut.

Submitted photo Theresa Swallows, manager of Hayes Shoe Store, points out where one of the stray bullets landed.
http://newsdemocratleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/web1_IMG_0330.jpgSubmitted photo Theresa Swallows, manager of Hayes Shoe Store, points out where one of the stray bullets landed.

By Chris Cooper

ccooper@newsdemocratleader.com

To contact Chris Cooper, email ccooper@newsdemocratleader.com or call 270-726-8394.

To contact Chris Cooper, email ccooper@newsdemocratleader.com or call 270-726-8394.

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