Voters Flee From Gunmen at Shirley Winston Recreation Center

Voters Flee From Gunmen at Shirley Winston Recreation Center

By Janell Williams

UPDATE— Columbus Police Department (CPD) is still searching for the suspects behind Tuesday's incident at Shirley B. Winston Rec Center. Footage has been released putting a face to the gunmen and their getaway vehicle. Due to this incident, CPD will be providing increased police presence at local recreation centers according to a recent press release. "The safety and security of our community, including polling places, remain our top priority."

Muscogee County residents fled a polling precinct on Tuesday evening after masked gunmen threatened to shoot a man inside, according to eyewitnesses on the scene. The incident occurred inside the Shirley Winston Recreation Center gymnasium as residents were heading to the polls at around 5 p.m.

As voters waited in line, multiple young men were seen exiting the basketball gym following an altercation and going to the parking lot to retrieve assault rifles.

“The whole thing was a misunderstanding,” said an eyewitness who spoke to the Courier Eco Latino on the condition of anonymity. “Everyone was just having fun making jokes about the guys missing shots. The next thing we know these two guys came back into the gym with ski masks on waving guns at us.” 

 The gunmen eventually left when they saw the man they threatened did not want a fight and had many bystanders present, the eyewitness said. 

“My biggest fear was that there were so many kids there and there was no way I could get them all to safety in time if something happened,” said the eyewitness.

“It was reported that a gun was produced by an individual; however, both parties involved had left the scene by the time officers arrived,” said Brittany Santiago, Public Information Officer for the Columbus Police Department, in a statement to the Courier Eco Latino. “As a precautionary measure, the gymnasium was closed to prevent any further issues, and an investigation into the incident is currently underway.

“We want to assure you that there was no disruption in the voting process due to this incident,” the statement said.

Authorities are still investigating the incident, which involves a video of the alleged disturbance occurring. A press conference for Wednesday afternoon has reportedly been scheduled. 

Anyone with information regarding the suspects' identities can anonymously call (706) 653-3400.

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