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Owner recounts shots fired into Warner Robins bookstore with two employees inside

Someone fired “at least one round” through the front glass of Gottwals Books on Russell Parkway with two employees inside at closing Monday night. A bullet struck this counter.
Someone fired “at least one round” through the front glass of Gottwals Books on Russell Parkway with two employees inside at closing Monday night. A bullet struck this counter.

Someone fired “at least one round” through the front glass of Gottwals Books on Russell Parkway as two employees were getting ready to leave for the day Monday.

Just moments before, a man had tried both handles on the store’s two entrances. The doors were locked, the lights were off and the cash registers were down.

“They nicely ... just waived to him and said (he’d) have to come back the next day and that was it,” said Shane Gottwals, owner of the bookstore nestled in the busy, small shopping center at Carl Vinson Parkway and Russell Parkway. “He didn’t seem disgruntled or unhappy or anything like that.

“But within a minute, they ... heard a loud crack — it was a deafening crack, as one of them put it. A bullet came through a big 6 foot by 9 foot pane of glass, shattered that and (the bullet) landed straight into our trade-in counter which (the employees) were right behind,” Gottwals said.

The employees were standing within 10 feet of where the bullet entered into the building, he said.

Multiple witnesses saw a sports utility vehicle peel out of the parking lot after the gunshot. A police news release Tuesday said the vehicle was a silver Chevy Trailblazer.

Meanwhile, the employees ran to the back of the store.

“They didn’t know if somebody was firing to try to break the glass to get in, get in after them, or if they were going to keep shooting,” Gottwals said. “They were scared to death and got out of there as quickly as they could.”

Gottwals said he’s not sure if the person who fired into the store was the same person who tried the handles. Another customer earlier in the day had been turned down for textbook purchase, though he didn’t seem upset either, Gottwals said.

“It may have been somebody who just pulled up in the parking and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to do something stupid and fire a round into the bookstore and see how many books I can hit,’ ” Gottwals said. “I don’t know.”

Police were dispatched to the bookstore at 6:04 p.m., the news release said.

Police dusted the doors for fingerprints and made a 3D image of the crime scene, Gottwals said. One witness told police she heard three distinct gunshots. Evidence of only one bullet was found.

“Everything just points to stupid,” Gottwals said. “It’s super scary. All it would have taken was a few feet over, it either could have killed one of them, or could have hit them in the leg, or something. You just don’t know.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Warner Robins police Detective Justin Clark at 478-302-5380, or Macon Regional Crimestoppers at 1-877-68CRIME.

Becky Purser: 478-256-9559, @BecPurser

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