The savage beating of a former soldier early Saturday and a shooting that sent four men to the hospital a night later seemed a distant memory to many in downtown Columbus on Monday, as shops opened and couples strolled down Broadway on a warm spring day.
But despite the business-as-usual demeanor, several people stopped and stared in amazement at a trail of blood that snaked its way around the corner of 10th Street and Broadway, an eerie reminder of a weekend of violence.
“I don’t care where you’re at, it could be the safest place in the world and every once in a while something’s going to happen,” said George Richter, a pedestrian who seemed unperturbed by the dark splotches left by one of the victims of the shooting early Sunday. “Back in the ’70s, I wouldn’t walk down here during the day, but today I walk down here at night and feel perfectly safe.”
Several people shared Richter’s sentiment and said they were undeterred by the assaults. Police and downtown business owners, meanwhile, said these incidents, while they happened on consecutive nights, were a jarring anomaly that does not warrant any knee-jerk reactions.
“I don’t want to feel like I’m scared to go anyplace, especially this place,” Rick Lacy, 56, said Monday as he sipped java in front of Fountain City Coffee. “This is the place you should feel safe. Downtown is the heart of Columbus.”
But Jessica Scrutchins, a 20-year-old student at Columbus State University, said the two incidents underscored her sense of unease with the nightlife in downtown.
“I’m only down here for classes -- luckily I don’t stay down here,” she said. “I would never just come down here (by myself). I wouldn’t feel comfortable.”
George Saad, owner of Mario’s on Broadway, sought to distance his business from the nearby shooting that wounded four men, including two of his security guards. “It’s very safe here, no problems,” he said. “Accidents always happen. You go across the road and somebody hits you, but not everybody gets hit.”
Saad added, “I’ve been here 30 years and there was a time when I came here and it was very risky. I parked across the street and had to look behind me 10 times before I got back to the car.”
Richard Bishop, president of Uptown Columbus, said officials have increased security over the years to keep pace with the growing nightlife. About eight police officers work foot patrol on a typical Saturday night, he said.
“Certainly what happened is unfortunate, but it is a byproduct of the nightlife and those situations that go along with that,” Bishop said. “At the same time, we’ve got to ensure the safety of our visitors to uptown. Security is our number one priority.”
Though they happened in the same area, the beating and shooting don’t appear to be related, and have not prompted authorities to consider any large increases in patrols, Assistant Police Chief Charles Rowe said.
“The two incidents did happen on the same weekend, but I think if you look at the recent history of the uptown area, we haven’t really had that many incidents,” Rowe said. “We feel like we’ve got enough officers down there to control the situations that come up, and historically we have.”
Rowe said that the suspects in both incidents decided to “exact revenge on someone.”
“I don’t know that the number of officers we had had any impact,” he added. “I don’t know that we would have prevented it.”
Tommy Boyce was partying with a friend at the Uptown Vault early Sunday just a few hours before the shooting. He said he heard about both incidents over the weekend but hasn’t thought twice about returning to his favorite downtown hangouts.
As a New York native, Boyce, 26, said he has seen his share of violence.
“There’s a big culture diversity that comes down here, and it’s not so much the clash of cultures, it’s the lack of respect people have for one another,” Boyce said. “You can’t be disrespectful to each other or stuff like this will happen.”