KENOSHA, Wisc. — “Oh shit, I gotta go!” Richie McGinniss hangs up on me.
It’s not hard to spot the group of people clustered at a gas station. A car partially obscures the scene, but the bright lights of the boarded up business still highlight some members of the small crowd.
I start jogging toward the station, phone in hand, ready to record. Richie, our director of video, told me earlier on that phone call that he was following a group of armed individuals at the time. I remembered them – their arrival near the courthouse, the fights that had broken out with them earlier in the evening, how one member of the group seemed too nervous to be handling a weapon.
The scene there is chaotic – people yelling, shoving, making threats, then a crowd chasing a young man. Richie is already onsite and, as I’m heading to meet him, the moments leading up to the first shooting are already playing out. Richie sees the alleged shooter hurrying down the street, gun in one hand and fire extinguisher in the other, until he reaches a sort of corner in the parking lot of the gas station.
Meanwhile, I’m moving more rapidly toward the chaos. The key moments caught on video begin to come into focus for me, although I’m not close enough to make out specific faces yet. There’s a loud bang. I stop immediately – I didn’t grow up around guns. It sounds like a gunshot. I’m just not sure.
A few beats go by after the first shot – enough time for me to be able to get out my phone. As if on autopilot, I hit the record button. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Now We Know Who The Kenosha Shooter Was — Here’s What It Was Like As The Shooting Happened)
BREAKING someone has been shot. @RichieMcGinniss just carried him into a car. Directly across street from hospital
— Shelby Talcott (@ShelbyTalcott) August 26, 2020
Bang, bang. Three more gunshots? Four? They sound slightly different from the first. People sprint in every direction, screaming and running away from that little gas station on the corner.
“Were those gunshots?” I ask someone next to me.
“Yeah. Yeah. That was gunshots.”
Richie would later tell me that he saw what prompted the first shooting. A verbal fight escalated as the victim tried grabbing the alleged shooter’s rifle – twice. The second time, Richie told me, the victim came very close to getting his hand on the man’s gun, trying to grab it away from him. He may have actually made contact, but it’s unclear amid the mayhem. That’s when the shooter fired.
“I see the shooter run away, and then I run in to provide medical aid,” Richie tells me. “What I didn’t realize until afterwards is that the shooter ran around the car and stood behind me. I screamed at him to call 911, not realizing he was the shooter. He runs away moments later after pulling out his phone.”
We would find out later that the very first gunshot – the sound that appears to have prompted the shooter to turn around, that Richie recounted and that caused me to begin filming, was not from the man who has now been charged with first degree murder.
It came from an unknown gunman who fired a single shot into the air, according to video footage reviewed by The New York Times.
I’m on the ground, bullets flying, seeing the confrontation from farther away. Phone still in hand, I run across the street and toward where the gunfire erupted. At that moment, a swarm of people begin to move in my direction.
“HE SHOT HIM! WHY’D YOU SHOOT HIM? WHY’D YOU SHOOT HIM?” people yell as a young man sprints past me, gun in hand. I freeze, recording the scene with my phone. I get a glimpse of his face as he passes by, turning back with his hands on his gun as he searches for those chasing him. He looks terrified … and young.
People are claiming this guy shot the first victim. He’s seen here running away. Absolutely chaos right now. pic.twitter.com/9LXk5hX7gl
— Shelby Talcott (@ShelbyTalcott) August 26, 2020
I wasn’t scared until it registered that one of the victims could be Richie.
After the armed individual and the mob following him passes, I turn my focus back on the gas station. It seemed like ages, but couldn’t have been more than a minute before I arrived under the flood lights of the gas station.
Inching my way through, my only thought is about my co-worker (and friend): What if this is Richie? What will I do? What if it’s a fatal shot, and he’s dead? How do I tell his family?
A man lies on the ground, bare-skinned and not moving. He has a red shirt wrapped around his head and as I get closer, there’s blood. Not a lot of blood. But a hole, right in his head. The red shirt has a hole in it, too, where the bullet must have ripped through.
The person lying on the ground isn’t Richie. Relieved, I begin to look for him. A shirtless man next to me is yelling as he helps lift the victim. It’s Richie. I breathe. He’s fine. He’s helping.
I follow the chaos as he and three others begin carrying the victim across the street. His hand is hanging down, completely limp, and his bloodied, t-shirt wrapped head is lopsided. I can’t tell if he’s alive, although moments earlier he was breathing.
That breathing was not like anything I had ever heard. It was like while his body knew it had to breathe, but his brain was unable to process how to make it happen. He was sort of wheezing, just for a few moments as he battled. That stopped quickly.
Screaming voices all round, and the disorder of the moment seems to make it harder for the guys to get the victim into a car sitting with its trunk open just across the street. Looking up, I notice a sign. We are right in front of a hospital – literally directly in front of it.
That’s good, I think. We’re so close. He’ll be fine.
There’s a lot of yelling and chaotic movement of human bodies. Everyone’s shouting instructions, there is a lot of crying and distraught faces, some people are angry. The victim is finally loaded into the car, sort of smushed into this medium-sized trunk. Richie gets in that trunk with him. The driver tries to move the car through the sea of shocked humanity, toward the hospital entrance (which couldn’t have been more than about 100 yards).
The crowd surrounding the car won’t move. Richie bellows at a group of people behind the car to get out of the way, as the vehicle needs to back up in order to drive down the hospital driveway. I’m to the side of the car, just on the corner of the driveway, and I can’t believe that the crowd is inadvertently not allowing this car to pass.
“This man needs every single second at the hospital he can get,” I think before yelling at someone to “MOVE!”
The car, Richie and victim inside, finally manages to squeal away towards the hospital. I look around and begin to walk back towards where the first shooting happened. A car is engulfed in flames at the gas station.
And then – four more gunshots.
I can’t quite figure out where the gunshots are coming from. More keep coming. Is it all from the same shooter? I have no idea.
I’ll later learn that protesters had continued chasing the alleged shooter I had seen running past me. Townhall’s Julio Rosas was on his way to the site of the first shooting when he saw the foot pursuit. According to Rosas, the guy with the rifle (the accused shooter) tripped and fell mid-chase. Video posted to Twitter would back up his account. The crowd shouted “Get his ass!”
“Two people jumped onto him and there was a struggle over control of the rifle, but the guy was able to retain it after firing off multiple rounds and hitting the two attackers,” Rosas told me, adding that one man hit the alleged shooter over the head with a skateboard as he was on the ground. This man then tried to grab the gun, according to photos and video evidence.
“Everyone else had cleared away from him and he got up and walked away.”
????????????: Multiple gunshots are fired after people chased a guy with a rifle. Rifle dude tripped and fell. He fired his gun at a guy who jumped on top of him. pic.twitter.com/BfV244MMnc
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) August 26, 2020
Here’s video of the man’s wounds, I recorded him being shot in Kenosha. His right arm is badly damaged. Credit: @ louriealex (instagram) pic.twitter.com/iE8vUG27mb
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) August 26, 2020
As Julio is recording this second shooting, I follow a a small group through the parking lot across from the gas station and quickly squat down behind a car. Someone asks where the police are, a question I’m wondering as well. Behind me, firecrackers go off in the back yard of a small house. Everyone behind the car, including myself, jumps instinctively.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Someone asks, gesturing towards the firecrackers.
Sirens begin to wail and I see the familiar lights of cop cars coming down the road. Officers very quickly surround the scene and I emerge from behind the safety of the parked car. They work to shut down the streets. There are officers in front of the gas station, down the road – everywhere.
Still, it took them several minutes to arrive, even though they were just down the street trying to disperse the crowd. It took six minutes, maybe, from the first shot fired for a single officer to arrive, by my estimation.
My phone rings. It’s Richie. His voice is shaking, but I can tell he’s trying to act okay.
“Hey,” he says.
“You okay?” I ask. “You’re at the hospital?”
Richie says he’s fine, but that he doesn’t have a shirt. He sounds nervous and upset, understandably so, and says he can’t walk back to the hotel without a shirt on because some guys were angry when he was helping the victim. He took a few punches while transporting the victim to the car, he tells me.
“I don’t have a shirt. Can you get me one?” he asks, adding that I should meet him at the hospital and we can go home.
The phone call ends. I text the third person in our Daily Caller squad, Jorge Ventura, to make sure he’s okay. Luckily, he tells me later that he had been heading back to the hotel when the shooting started, which means he was just fine.
I meet up with Julio in front of the hospital, and we head towards the emergency entrance. Inside the hospital, Richie is talking to a police officer, but I am quickly told I have to wait outside. Julio and I sit on the sidewalk outside the ER’s entry.
We wait. Midway through, one of the few other men waiting outside with us becomes distraught. He’s just learned that his friend, one of the victims, is being taken to surgery and might lose his arm. The man begins pacing, crying out and screaming. He tries to pump himself up enough to call his friend’s family.
“Come on, man. You’ve gotta call them. You’ve gotta call his family. His friends. Come on, man,” he says out loud.
The other man gets on the phone at some point and tells someone that he’s waiting outside of the hospital.
“A white supremacist just shot a bunch of innocent protesters,” we hear him say.
Julio and I look at each other with the same confused face. “What?” I think.
Earlier in the night, the supposedly “white supremacist” shooter had been rendering aid to protesters injured by the crowd control munitions that police fired.
The night before that, I spoke with three members of this crew that the shooter was a part of. They were protecting a local business and got into a heated argument with protesters who accused them of not being on their side.
One person in the armed crew, which calls itself “The Libertarians,” explained that they were on the same side. Richie even spoke to the shooter right before the incident. He asked why he was armed and standing in front of a business.
“So people are getting injured, and our job is to protect this business and part of my job is to also help people. If there’s somebody hurt, I’m running into harms way. That’s why I have my weapon, I need to protect myself, obviously,” he said.
“But I also have my med kit.”