Residents, city leaders react to Tuesday’s park shooting in Columbus

“Being a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, last night was the most vulnerable I’ve felt in 20 years.”
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 4:30 PM EDT|Updated: May. 31, 2023 at 6:17 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - A 20-year military veteran describes the shooting scene at an East Columbus park last night--like being in Iraq. It all started as a water balloon fight among children and quickly turned to panic and chaos, and with all the gunfire, some say it’s amazing only one person was shot, a 16-year-old.

“It’s supposed to be a family atmosphere out here.”, said Reginald Abrahms after Tuesday’s shooting in Shirly Winston Park in East Columbus.

A water balloon fight Tuesday night at the park quickly turned sour when shots rang out around 8:30. President and coach of Sally Little League, Chris Smith, is a military veteran who’s seen combat. He said Tuesday’s shooting felt similar.

“We literally just ran for our lives last night.”, said Smith. “Being a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, last night was the most vulnerable I’ve felt in 20 years.”

That vulnerability is turning parents away.

“That’s evidence that we need greater security at Shirley Winston Park.”, said Columbus District 4 City Councilor Toyia Tucker.

“I know for sure that I’ve already lost one family.”, said Smith.

The incident, as well as others this year, has prompted Columbus City Councilor Toyia Tucker to turn her attention to the park. She said she wants to put up gates at the front entrance in hopes of deterring people from coming in after hours and doing donuts in the parking lot, littering, and committing crimes, something Abrahms said is happening but doesn’t reflect the community.

“Basically, we’re telling whoever comes to this park this is what we live like. This is what we are. This is not me. I don’t live like this, and I don’t want the people in this community to say they live like this.”, said Abrahms.

Right now, the park closes at 11 p.m., but Tucker wants it to open at sun up and close at sundown.

Abrams agrees with the move. He coaches kids on how to play baseball at the park a few times out the week. He points out there’s only so much the city can do, and the accountability needs to shift at some point.

“It should be a multitude of solutions. I think that should be a solution, but then you have to worry about the foot traffic coming in.”, said Abrahms. “It’s a lot to do with children being held accountable and parents being held accountable for their children.”

There are cameras in the park. Tucker said they work now but recently had issues with WIFI connection this year. Police are still looking for the suspects in last night’s shooting. According to Tucker, Columbus Police have been performing details in the area to deter crime, and citizens report police in the area moments before the shooting happened. If you have any information to help the police’s investigation, contact the Columbus Police Department.