B.B. gun bandits strike
By By Janet Little Cooper
A shooting spree spanning from Pensacola, Fla., to Atmore has authorities on the lookout for suspects in the weekend string of mischievous vandalism and local residents wondering why they were targeted.
The first wave of shootings occurred Saturday night in the Pensacola, Fla., where Sgt. Mike Ward of the Escambia County Sheriffs Department said that more than a dozen windows were shot out of parked vehicles.
"The incidents began Saturday night, with numerous reports coming in of vehicles having their windows shot out," Ward said. "At this time we believe that a B.B. gun or pellet gun was used to shatter the windows. We are currently working with other law enforcement agencies to develop a lead of suspects. If anyone sees anything out of the ordinary or a strange vehicle in their community they need to report it."
Florida officials were alerted again following another shooting spree that began in Cantonment, Fla., and continued through Walnut Hill, Fla., Bratt, Fla., and finally ended in Atmore Sunday night.
According to Ward, the spree continued Sunday night as the vandals made their way through the county shooting windows out of vehicles and tractors in Walnut Hill, Fla., and Bratt, Fla.
Rebecca Sellars, who lives in Bratt, recalls hearing a couple of pops Sunday night, but just figured it was a vehicle backfiring, but after discovering the back window of her Dodge Ram pick up, she knew otherwise.
"Monday morning we went to get in the truck and when we shut the doors the back window just completely shattered," Sellars said. "At first we just thought that it was from the truck being shut up and the heat, and then next thing we know a deputy shows up and begins to tell us what all had happened. At that point I was really aggravated that someone would do this, especially if it is a group of teenagers."
Sellars was surprised that her vehicle was chosen out of the other vehicles parked near hers.
The vandals didn't stop their journey of destruction at the Florida line, however. They continued traveling into Atmore shooting the windows out of tractors at Smith Tractor located on Highway 31 just out of Atmore and managed to shoot at least one of the large plate glass windows to Buster's Restaurant leaving only a pen hole according to owner Johnny Gibbs.
The brand new vehicles that lined the front row of the Chuck Steven's parking lot were easy prey for the vandals as they continued down the highway shooting windows.
"We had five brand new vehicles damaged," Chuck Stevens's service manager said. "They were all on the front row of the lot which indicates to us that the suspects were driving down Highway 31 and did sort of a drive-by shooting. They didn't come into the lot or down the side streets. We lost about 8 windows in all, either front, back or side windows that has totaled to more than $2k worth of damage. There was no exit point on any of the vehicles that were shot and no sign of a pellet or B.B. left in the vehicles."
The Escambia County Ala. Sheriffs Department responded to Hendrix Tractor on Highway 21 north of Atmore Monday morning after owners discovered storefront windows being shot out as well as tractors.
"We had a total of four store front windows that were a complete loss and a smaller one on the side," Sherry Darby said. "The glass company came out yesterday and removed all the glass and placed plywood in until the glass comes in. We also had the windows shot out of five tractor cabs that has to be replaced as well as the driver's side window of a company pick up truck."
Es. Co. Sheriff Grover Smith is hoping that someone saw something and will give his department or either the Atmore Police Department a call.
"We are working with the Atmore Police Department and the Es. Co. Fla. Sheriff's department to get to the bottom of this," Smith said. "We are hoping that someone saw something and will give us a call."
Also, involved in the investigation is vandalism to the Atmore City Pool that was discovered Sunday morning by Atmore's recreational director, Melvin Middleton.
"They gained entry through a double-gated fence," Pool director Betty Warren said. "They broke several outdoor flood lights and threw chairs and a fan in the pool."
Atmore Police Department Investigator Chuck Brooks has not determined if the vandalism incurred at the pool is related to the weekend rash of shootings or not.
"We are working full speed with Frank Way from the Es. Co. Fla. Sheriffs Dept. and Brewton," Brooks said. "Way was up here from Pensacola Monday, and we've stayed in contact since then working on leads together. We have beefed up our city patrol units and have told them to be on the lookout for anything suspicious or out of the ordinary. We will even be checking anyone riding in a group or individual on the back of a pick up."
Anyone with any information regarding this investigation is encouraged to contact the Atmore Police Department at 368-9141, the Es. Co. Ala. Sheriffs Department at 867-0304 or the Escambia County, Fla. Sheriffs Department at 850-436-9630. Officers ensure that informant's identity will not be revealed.