Troy grads survive shooting in Tuscaloosa

Published 11:54 am Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Three Troy University graduates are safe after witnessing a horrific shooting that left 17 injured in Tuscaloosa early this morning.

“I thought it was a firework at first,” said Steven Boydstun, 24, from Daleville. “My next thought was ‘Why would somebody have brought fireworks to a bar?’”

“We all immediately looked around and I had a clear view of a guy with a gun,” said Grant Bullington, 23, from Birmingham. “It sounds cliché, but I said ‘Hit the deck.’”

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Boydstun and Bullington had been out with a few friends, including a female Troy graduate. They were leaving the bar and were near the patio area of the Copper Top in Tuscaloosa when the shooting began.


“If we had been 20 seconds later, we would have been right in his path,” Boydstun said.

Bullington said he shoved the female Troy grad into a bushy area out of the sight of the gunman and then they all took cover behind a stone fountain nearby.

The young men said they looked quickly to see what was going on, whether it was gunfight between two people, or a random shooting.

“We were about 20 feet away from it,” Boydstun said.


“We probably had the best vantage point of anyone there. As soon as we got down, he fired of another five or six shots, at least, on the patio of the bar.”

“It wasn’t very loud, it wasn’t a deep boom,” Boydstun continued. “It was more high pitched, like birdshot.”

“He fired additional shots into the side door of the bar,” Bullington said. “As soon as the shots stopped, I popped up a bit and didn’t see him. I thought he had physically gone into the bar.”

That’s when the group of friends decided to make a run for the car.

“As soon as I got to the car, I called 911,” Bullington said. “Everything that is on the news and being broadcast is essentially my 911 call.”

Nathan Van Wilkins, 44, turned himself into police Tuesday afternoon after identifying himself as the shooting suspect. He has been charged with 18 counts of attempted murder, one count of shooting into an occupied dwelling and one count of shooting into an occupied building. Wilkins is being held on a $2 million bond.

“In hindsight, I wish there was something I could have done,” Boydstun said. “But there wasn’t anything. You don’t stand much of a chance in a situation like that.”

“I’m still kind of jittery,” Bullington said Tuesday morning. “I feel really lucky. I feel like he probably saw us, but we just weren’t his target. It could have easily been us in the hospital.”

Boydstun majored in Political Science at Troy and is enrolled in graduate school at the University of Alabama, studying Public Administration. Bullington received his bachelor’s in Mathematics at Troy and is enrolled in graduate school at the University of Alabama, studying Mechanical Engineering.