‘I just tried to remain calm’
by James Phillips
Jul 18, 2012 | 6603 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ken Barfield, co-owner of the FedEx location in Jasper, speaks to a media outlet over the phone Tuesday afternoon. Barfield came face-to-face with Tuscaloosa shooter Nathan Wilkins . - Photo by: James Phillips.
Ken Barfield, co-owner of the FedEx location in Jasper, speaks to a media outlet over the phone Tuesday afternoon. Barfield came face-to-face with Tuscaloosa shooter Nathan Wilkins . - Photo by: James Phillips.
slideshow
When wanted Tuscaloosa gunman Nathan Van Wilkins walked into the Jasper FedEx store Tuesday morning, the owner of the business had no idea who he was.

“He came up to me and said, ‘I’m the one they are looking for that shot the 17 people in Tuscaloosa,” the store’s co-owner, Ken Barfield said.

Wilkins was wanted in connection with the shooting that wounded 17 people in the Copper Top bar in Tuscaloosa.

Barfield said he immediately knew the large man standing only a few feet in front of him was dangerous.

“He was a very big guy. I just tried to remain calm,” Barfield said. “I asked him if he wanted me to call a lawyer or maybe call the police. He asked me to call the police.”

After calling the Jasper Police Department, Barfield said he and the 44-year-old Wilkins chatted for almost 10 minutes. Wilkins was aggrivated at the time it took officers to respond to the scene, Barfield added.

“He said, ‘Good thing there wasn’t a shooting in here today,’” Barfield said. “That wasn’t what I wanted to hear.”

Barfield said he offered Wilkins a Powerade, even though he was terrified.

“I was scared to death, but I didn’t want him to think that,” Barfield said. “It’s like when you are around an aggressive dog. If you run, it will chase you, but if you stand up to it, it won’t. I tried to show him that I wasn’t scared of him. I was calm and just asked him if he wanted a drink.”

Wilkins showed no signs of being on drugs, but told Barfield he had been taking drugs at the time of the bar shooting.

“He said something about drugs being involved,” Barfield said. “I told him that I’m sure it had been a tough experience.”

When police arrived, Barfield said Wilkins was pacing near the store’s front window. The store owner gave the suspect one bit of advice before police got to the business.

“I told him to keep his hands out in the open so police could see them,” Barfield said. “I didn’t want this to turn into a shoot out.”

Jasper Police Capt. Larry Cantrell said Wilkins was taken into custody without incident. “He threw his hands in the air and said, ‘I am the guy you’re looking for. I shot those people,’” Cantrell said.

Wilkins also told police that he had hoped to die.

“He said he wanted to die and was hoping the Tuscaloosa Police Department had killed him last night,” Cantrell said. “He said, ‘I wanted the Tuscaloosa police to kill me, but I got scared and left before they got there.’”

Cantrell said police received a tip from a family member that Wilkins was in Jasper. Moments later, they received Barfield’s call from the FedEx store.

The Daily Mountain Eagle learned that Wilkins came to Jasper to visit his sister, an employee at Murray’s Jewelry located in Jasper Mall. Michelle Murray, co-owner of the business, confirmed the suspect did come to the store Tuesday morning.

After speaking to the sister for only a few moments, Wilkins left.

“We didn’t know what was going on until he left,” Murray said. “I called the police for her to tell them that he wanted to turn himself in and was going to the Walmart parking lot.”

Murray called the incident a terrible tragedy and said her thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims in Tuscaloosa as well as members of the Wilkins family.

Wilkins drove a white Ford F-150 pickup truck to the Wal-Mart parking lot in Jasper and walked from there to the FedEx store, which is located in a small strip mall just above the parking lot on Pediatric Drive.

Authorities from Tuscaloosa searched the truck for evidence, Cantrell said. The truck remained in the parking lot late Tuesday afternoon.

Cantrell said he was happy Wilkins had changed his mind about wanting to die by the time Jasper police got involved.

“We’re happy that no one was hurt, including Mr. Wilkins, in our city,” Cantrell said. “He got a little emotional when our officers put him in the car and said he was sorry for what had happened.”

Jasper police handed Wilkins over Tuesday afternoon to members of the U.S. Marshal’s Service. Cantrell said marshals were in Jasper minutes after the suspect was apprehended.

“Within 15 minutes, our parking lot was filled with U.S. Marshals,” he said. “They had information he was headed to Jasper and were in Oakman when they got he call that we had him.”

Wilkins has been charged with 17 counts of attempted murder and one count of shooting into an occupied building in the Copper Top shooting. He was also charged with one count of attempted murder and one count of shooting into an occupied dwelling in a late Monday night shooting in Northport. His bond was set at $2 million.