Times-Union reporter recounts Art Walk shooting

Phillip Heilman at Volstead when shooting happened

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Florida Times-Union reporter was at Volstead in downtown Jacksonville Wednesday night when two teenagers were shot in an alley at the first Art Walk of 2017.

The two teens were shot on North Laura Street, a few blocks from Hemming Park where the monthly Art Walk event was underway, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Police said the teens and the shooters possibly knew each other and that the victims are not affiliated with any known street gangs.

RELATED: Sheriff: 2 teens shot at Art Walk not cooperating

Reporter Phillip Heilman told News4Jax that he was at The Volstead, a cocktail bar on Adams Street, when the shots rang out and he took cover with a coworker.

“We are just chatting, and all of a sudden, a couple of people run in. But first I'm just thinking maybe people are getting wild and had a good time and maybe one too many beers,” Heilman said. “Then a few more people, and a few more people, and people started shouting, 'There's someone with a gun, and they are shooting.'”

Heilman said for a brief time, he thought he might be killed in the incident.

“You know, I'm thinking, 'Is this how I am going to die -- in the Volstead, of all places?'” Heilman said. “That's not how I pictured my life going. So I whipped out my phone and started texting my girlfriend and saying, ‘Hey I'm not really sure what's happened, but I love you, and I hope everything works out all right.”’

Heilman said those texts are important, adding that in tragedies like the Pulse nightclub shooting, it’s the texts that people remember.

“People sending those last text messages for loved ones to have something to hold on to,” Heilman said.

Surveillance video from the main Jacksonville library showed people panicking and running in the street, even though the shooting happened blocks away. At The Volstead, Heilman said people were panicked and looking for places to hide.

Not knowing what was happening and where the shooting was actually occurring, Heilman thought the worst was about to happen.

“People are diving and scrambling to hide anywhere they can,” Heilman said. “I’m thinking, 'This guy is walking in the door.'”

Heilman said he hopes to see a large turnout for next month’s Art Walk.

“Hopefully, next month, there's a better showing than ever to let these people know that we still stand by them,” Heilman said. “We are not going to let a couple of people making poor decisions define what Jacksonville is.”

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