One minute I was savoring my PB&J after finishing up the noon show, the next – "Shelley, why don't you and Jemon head out to Appomattox?" We'd gotten a call about a possible shooting there. Dispatchers wouldn't confirm anything. Since I was the only free reporter, off we went down Route 460. It was the middle of January, but I didn't even have to wear my coat. We were enjoying a brief spell of mild, sunny weather in between massive snowstorms.
I hadn't heard of Snapps Mill Road before. But we found it right off 460. About a mile or so later, Jemon and I came up on a truck blocking the middle of the road. It wasn't the Sheriff's Office or State Police but two younger men who say they were told by deputies not to let anyone come by. After a brief discussion, Jemon parked the car and we pulled out the camera.
There wasn't much to see at that point, other than a State Police helicopter that was swooping overhead. But pretty soon, it was what we heard that gave me chills: gunfire not very far from where we were standing. As you could imagine, we were soon asked to leave as a SWAT team pulled in.
The next few hours are a blur for me. Live shot after live shot after live shot… with very little information. We knew there had been "multiple fatalities" and that a suspect was in the woods. But honestly – that was about it.
I got frustrated because I wished I had more to tell everyone. "Let's go live to Shelley who has more information for us." But I didn't. It was clear that State Police had their hands full and were releasing facts very slowly.
I finally handed over the story to our night crew and made my way home by about 9:30 or so. I made sure to turn on our 11pm news. At this point, I too was a viewer desperate to know what had happened out there. The very first sound bite of the show made my heart drop.
"Eight confirmed fatalities."
Eight? Did I hear that right? I got into bed but barely slept. It was hard to shut my eyes. When I woke up, the mild and sunny day was gone. Almost fittingly, a cold and rainy one had taken its place.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims who died on January 19, 2010.