Columbus OH June 13 2017 A tranquil Sunday afternoon at the Downtown Columbus Metropolitan Library turned chaotic when one man shot another after an argument in a second floor study area.
Columbus police said the shooting, which happened about 3 p.m., was triggered when someone accidentally bumped into the suspect.
The victim, John Thrasher, was shot in the right ankle and managed to limp away to the basement of the library at 96 S. Grant Ave. He was taken in stable condition across the street to OhioHealth Grant Medical Center.
The suspect, Joseph W. Steward III, 28, of the South Side, is charged with felonious assault.
Steward admitted he shot the victim after an argument, according to Franklin County Municipal Court records. Steward told police that he then chased Thrasher across the second floor of the library, but surrendered when confronted by library security, who subdued him.
Police interviewed dozens of witnesses and recovered surveillance video that capture the shooting.
Scores of patrons ran for the exits when they heard three loud shots echo.
Surlaney Posey, 54, said she was about 25 feet away or so, dozing in a chair when she heard the confrontation and the shooting.
Posey said that the shooter had bumped into Thrasher’s girlfriend. According to Posey, Thrasher told the man: “You pushed my girl. Don’t you say excuse me?”
That provoked Steward to curse Thrasher and pull a gun from his pants. Posey said she heard three shots in quick succession: “Pow. Powpow.”
She said she crouched down and crawled before running away. “Somebody shooting up a library? It was just unbelievable. I am saying, wow, this is crazy.”
Anthony Alexander said he was in a second-floor study room when he heard shots that sounded like they came from the back of the second floor.
“When I heard the first one, I didn’t think it was a gunshot. But then I heard more, and I saw a security guy get on the floor. Then I knew it was serious.,” he said. He said he saw security guards subduing the suspect a short time later.
“They had him on the ground,” Alexander said.
Wayne Crawford was also studying on the second floor. He comes to the library often, usually on Sundays. He heard gunshots and saw about a dozen people running, so he started running too. He and others ran down the stairs, where he and another man helped a girl who had been knocked down. They left through a garage entrance.
Witnesses said police were running into the building even before the last of the patrons had evacuated.
Library spokesman Ben Zenitsky said the library has a security presence who work to keep the library safe.
“Our thoughts are with the victim, and we hope he makes a quick recovery,” Zenitsky said. “We have a security team who acted very quickly.” The library, which was set to close at 5 p.m., was evacuated while police investigated. The library will open at 1 p.m. Monday to give staff time to prepare the building. All other branches will open as usual.
Weapons are prohibited at the library.
Standing on a corner outside the library, Posey reflected on the shooting and said that it could have been so much worse if it had occurred on the first floor, where the children’s section is located.
Ulysses Simmons, 54, who is a regular patron of the library and was on the first floor when the shooting broke out, still was wrapping his mind around what happened. The library is usually a safe place.
“It’s unbelievable, unbelievable that it happened at the main library,” Simmons said.
Crawford said the shooting probably won’t keep him from coming back to the library, which he enjoys. Alexander said he isn’t sure.
“This might be the last time,” he said. “Bullets don’t discriminate.”