A Mississippi Coast man was shirtless and covered in blood last weekend when he heard a woman cry out, “Where’s my brother? Where’s my brother?”
Earlier on Friday, Tony and his wife went out to downtown Ocean Springs to celebrate their wedding anniversary. He was just feet away when gunfire rang out at The Scratch Kitchen, a restaurant that was hosting a late-night Cinco de Mayo party on their patio. The mass shooting would leave one teen dead and seven others injured.
As dozens of people ran away from the restaurant, Tony did the opposite and stopped at the first victim he saw on the ground, who he described as a young man with a gunshot wound to the groin area.
A U.S. military veteran who now works in construction, Tony is trained in giving first aid and took off his shirt to wrap around the wound.
“He was bleeding pretty good so I took my shirt and tried to plug the hole and keep his head up until police arrived,” Tony told the Sun Herald. He asked that his last name not be used to protect his identity.
Tony propped the shooting victim’s head up and kept applying pressure to the wound. He also tried to help him retrieve his phone from his pocket. The victim wanted to get a relative on the phone.
“He just wanted to talk to somebody,” Tony said. “He was polite. He was calm. I just kept talking to him to try to keep him conscious and coherent.”
An Ocean Springs police officer also was providing aid until paramedics arrived. And that’s when Tony ran over to the woman asking about her brother, he said.
Witnesses recount Ocean Springs mass shooting scene
Tony ran to the woman, who he said collapsed when police told her that her brother was dead. Tony caught her head and held her for about five minutes, he said.
“It was that blood-curdling scream, her brother was laying right in there, dead. That was the part that shook me up the most — just watching that piece of her leave her body.”
Jackson County Deputy Coroner Jason Prisock identified the deceased man as 19-year-old Chayse Harmon. Police told the Sun Herald he was shot in the chest.
Tony wasn’t the only bystander who tried to help in the aftermath of the shooting.
Abranee Goldsmith tried to perform CPR on Harmon when she saw him fall to the ground after being shot.
“I heard gunshots, so I got underneath the table, and I looked to the right and saw the (victim) gasping for air,” Goldsmith told the Sun Herald on Saturday night. She was out celebrating Cinco De Mayo at the Scratch Kitchen that night.
Goldsmith found a T-shirt and tried to stop the blood rushing from Harmon’s body, she said.
“I just couldn’t leave here knowing I tried everything I could to try and help him,” she said.
Young people dead in Mississippi Coast gun violence
Tony and Goldsmith both told the Sun Herald the age of the victims was what struck them the most.
Tony referred to the victim he helped as a “kid,” while Goldsmith called Harmon a “baby.” Before the 19-year-old was identified by officials, Goldsmith predicted the victim was under 21.
“I can’t imagine (the feeling) ... he was just a kid still,” Tony said of the Harmon’s death. “It’s just the harsh reality of what happens all too often anymore.”
Harmon was the third teen to die from gun violence in less than a week on the Mississippi Coast. Haeleigh Stamper and “D.D.” Smith, both Hancock High School students, died last week in a shooting at an after-prom party in Bay St. Louis. Four others were wounded.
Haeleigh was 16 and D.D., 18, was set to graduate in a few short weeks.
Suspects have been arrested in both mass shootings. Cameron Brand, 19, faces murder and aggravated assault charges in the Bay St. Louis shooting. In an unprecedented move, authorities have not identified the suspect in the Ocean Springs shooting.
Scratch Kitchen shooting update
The Scratch Kitchen remains closed Monday and has been labeled an active crime scene by police. The restaurant’s owner, Brittany Alexander, has said she is fully cooperating with police and showing them surveillance from the restaurant.
The shooter, Alexander told the Sun Herald, jumped over the patio wall and was not a patron of the Scratch Kitchen.
Ocean Springs Mayor Kenny Holloway called the shooting an intentional act.
“The senseless act of violence has shaken our small town and has shown a disregard for others’ safety, not only in our downtown district but throughout our city,” he said in a press release.
The shooting has proven polarizing for Ocean Springs residents, with dozens of posts and hundreds of comments debating the future of the Scratch Kitchen in the Ocean Springs Talk of the Town Facebook group. Some are calling for the restaurant to close or end their after-hours parties, while others argue that residents should blame the shooter and not the business.
Residents are expected to voice their concerns about the mass shooting, possibly the largest in modern history in Ocean Springs, at a Tuesday Board of Alderperson’s meeting.
Sun Herald journalists Hannah Ruhoff and Margaret Baker contributed to this report.