True Story: I Witnessed A Shooting

witnessing a shooting

Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hi! I’m Katie Estelle and I’m 23. I live in the mitten part of Michigan, kind of close to the curve of the thumb if you hold out your hand; it’s a Michigan thing.

By day, I’m a social worker who empowers families to take steps to keep their kids out of the foster care system. It’s a challenging, drama-filled, fulfilling gig. I spend my evenings thrifting, and refurbishing old things when I’m not cuddling with my baby, my hubby, or my Ugg pug.

What were you doing the night of the shooting?
I was having a night out with some girlfriends of mine. Every Tuesday that summer I had followed this formula: head to a local brewery, followed by a downtown bar, and finish the night at a sports pub for dollar pints. For some reason this night I decided I wanted a break from my normal routine and headed to The Cabin. Here’s us at The Cabin before our other friend had arrived.
Tell us about how the shooting unfolded.
It was a nice July evening, so my 3 lady friends and I chose an outdoor table to sip on our discounted long islands and gossip. Here in Michigan we get mosquitoes, and this night was no exception, so I asked if we could go inside before my legs were covered in bites. They let me choose the table inside.

I had just set my mug down when I saw a man in a red sweatshirt walked across the room, go up to a booth, and hold something black in front of him. I hear four loud pops and saw some small, bright flashes.

Even though I saw this, my brain didn’t know how to process it. My initial response was that someone had dropped a tray of dishes. It was so loud. Once I heard people screaming and saw them rushing for the exits, I realized we needed to get out of there.

In the confusion, people on the patio we were just sitting on were trying to get inside while we were trying to get out, and one of the girls I was with was hyperventilating and wouldn’t move. It was pure chaos. I lost the other two in the panic, but I pulled my panicking friend behind me.

I’ll never forget the feeling of adrenaline as I hopped over a pine-log fence and saw a man pulling his girlfriend behind him as he army-crawled low to the ground. We ran across the street and hid in some pine trees, not knowing if he was still shooting or what was going on. I called my mom, crying as we watched as the shooter flew past us in his truck, followed by a heap of police cars.

What do you know about the shooter?
I know from articles that he had some mental health issues. I also know that police found a Kevlar vest, a Glock handgun, and two full magazines of ammunition on him, leading them to believe he was planning on shooting more people; he ended up taking two lives that day; his own, and that of a man who he thought was involved in a relationship with his sister-in-law. It turns out that they were just colleagues having drinks after work that night.
How did the shooting affect you?
I’m really okay. I don’t have any long-lasting debilitating effects from experiencing this tragedy, but I have noticed a difference. When I watch stories about events such as Sandy Hook and Aurora, I cry in a way I never did before. I relive the event a little each time and I feel for the witnesses. After Aurora, I’m uncomfortable in movie theaters and I don’t know that I would be if this hadn’t happened.
When I read the news stories, I realized I could’ve died that night if he had chosen to open fire on the rest of us. It made me understand that life can end at any moment. I told myself I would live in the now. When I found good love, I would love without holding back. I would be kind to people who needed it. I’d spend less time watching TV and more time getting out there and experiencing things. I wouldn’t live to please others over myself. That weekend I went on a four-day hike at Pictured Rocks I’d been planning on for months. I’d never felt so alive.
Did this affect your feelings about gun control and/or mental health service?
I’m still really on the fence about gun control. I was raised in a hunting family and many of my friends and family actually carry on them (legally, of course). I am and will forever be for increased mental health services, though.
I don’t want to get too political here, but it amazes me that we spend $40,000 a year per convict, less than 10% of that per school child, and close to nothing on preventative mental health services. Something needs to change, and fast, but I couldn’t tell you what that solution would look like.
What advice would you give to others who have been through a similarly traumatic experience?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. My friends and I were lucky- none of us experienced PTSD, but that doesn’t mean anyone present that night isn’t still dealing with the effects two years later. There are many resources for crisis counseling in every state. Seek them out and never be ashamed of how you feel.
Thanks so much for sharing, Katie.  Have any of you witnessed anything similar?  How did you get past it?
P.S. You might also like these other True Stories: My parents were con artists & I’m a 26-year-old lady deputy sheriff.
photo by therealedwin // cc

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  1. The Dame Intl

    When I was a teenager I used to party at this club in the center of Johannesburg CBD which was an area that whites just didnt go to normally. But every Sunday, we would flock to this club after the Saturday night clubs closed. One hot summer day, the club was so full that a lot of us were outside the front, partying in the street around our cars blasting music. We were all on ecstacy and having a great time.

    Suddenly, out of nowhere, the street was full of police with shotguns pointed at the building opposite the club.

    All I remember was a policeman appearing next to me and yelling at me to get under the cars before he fired off shots into the building.

    Chaos ensued and there was a stamped into the club and then I started rushing really hard on the pills I had taken and that was just another day in South Africa.

    Ive watched my dad shoot at some boys who brought me back late as they drove out of our drive way.

    Ive seen him hold his gun to my mother's head and threaten to shoot us.

    Ive seen bouncers shoot at each other between rival nightclubs.

    Yeah, South Africa brings you up tough.

  2. The Dame Intl

    ps: Sarah, so many of these true life stories you post, I've experienced myself in my own life time, its so funny! You could just interview me over and over haha!

  3. eileen ragan | leaner by the lake

    Thanks for sharing with us, Katie. I witnessed two separate suicides in 2011 that left me totally scared and with big time anxiety. It threw my entire life off course for a few months, but even as I started over the incidents, I realized how bad the anxiety I was dealing with was. It founds its way into so many other parts of my life. I became uneasy and nervous – honestly thinking that every time I looked outside, that I'd see someone jumping out of a window. I started therapy to help with the trauma and it has been so wonderful, helping iron out issues from the incidents and the unrelated dirt that was stirred up afterwards. On a day to day basis, I use running, meditation, and healthy eating to combat the higher levels of anxiety and stress that my body has been dealing with since the incidents. I wrote about it more here:


  4. Ebony

    Oh wow. I know Katie through the blogosphere and had no idea she had witnessed this. Just goes to show.
    In Australia we don't have a lot of contact with guns and I am so so glad.

    • Sarah @ Marvelous-Darling

      I believe I read something recently where a politician from Australia knew he wouldn't be re-elected if he pushed for tighter gun restrictions, but he did it anyway. I can't believe how incredibly selfish American politicians are in contrast!

  5. Anonymous

    I wish people would think a bit about "gun control" NOT having to do with people who like to hunt. Hunters can still have registered legal guns and practice their sport. Canada has more hunters than the U.S. does, but a fraction of person-to-person gun violence.

    We try to control a person with a history of seizures or who doesn't have good eyesight from driving a car on public roads. I don't understand what anyone's argument is against trying to keep a mentally ill person from owning a gun. SAD!

  6. Alisha

    Thanks for sharing your story – I'm glad you got some positives from it, and I also commit to living more in the now thanks to your experience!

  7. Jessica

    As you may know today is April 7 2018. There was a shooting in Oroville. I was with my uncle and his family at the time. My cousin told my uncle that someone told him that we needed to leave. My uncle went to talk to someone then told me to go get dressed. I got dressed in under a minute. I grabbed my phone and a mint. Right before we were about to leave we heard the shots. I do not know how many shots were fired but I do know he shot most of them. A cop shot the shooter once. After going to the hospital the shooter died. I was scared today. But not for my safety. But for the safety for my 3 year old cousin. I know the man had a woman and her children at gun point. And I know he shot at the cops first. But what scares me the most was he was two houses away from where I was staying.


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