‘Tranquility to chaos’: Witness describes frantic Eugene Wow Hall shooting

EUGENE, Ore. (KGW) — Twelve gunshots rang out in four seconds on Friday night in the parking lot next to the WOW Hall music venue in Eugene while a hip-hop show went on inside.

Thomas Hiura was one of the attendees at the Lil Bean & ZayBang show that night. Before the shooting, Hiura said the night was calm with a small crowd enjoying the show.

“I saw tranquility in one moment go straight to chaos,” Hiura said.

Hiura was near Lincoln Street and West 8th Alley at the bike lock-up near a parking lot next to the Wow Hall.

He said the crowd had dwindled a little between sets before another performer, Savelle Tha Native, went on stage. Hiura said Savelle, a friend of his, was outside rounding up his friends to get them inside for the set.

As Hiura looked in his pocket for his face mask to go back into the venue and watch his friend perform, “My attention was immediately drawn upward by loud bullets,” Hiura said. “You know, loud gunshots.”

The shooter was standing on the same sidewalk as Hiura.

“He didn’t look sporadic, or you know frazzled or having a mental breakdown,” Hiura said. “It looked like someone who had every intent to do this.”

At first, Hiura said, he prayed, hoping that the gunman wasn’t shooting anyone because he couldn’t see where he was shooting. He then backed away to put the venue building between him and the shooter.

He wanted to help somehow and thought gathering video evidence would help, so he pulled out his cellphone and started recording.

“I’m thinking about going into the building because that’s where the shooter isn’t going, or that’s what it seemed,” Hiura said.

Inside the venue, he said, he could hear people panicking.

“People inside the building, it was pandemonium in there. Naturally, they wanted to flee the scene and leave the building,” Hiura said.

Hiura said it was hard to see what the suspect looked like because the gunman was wearing fully dark clothing. Hiura said the suspect appeared to be a man with an athletic build, standing at approximately 5′ 6″.

The suspect in this shooting has not been arrested.

“I ducked toward the main entrance of WOW Hall and then I saw him run down Eighth Avenue westbound.” Hiura said it’s the last he saw of the shooter.

In the moments after the shooting, Hiura could see people hurt.

“Down the alley, some other people were looking really frazzled. I could see the blood and hear shouting from people who had been hit,” Hiura said.

Thomas Hiura described a frantic and chaotic scene Friday night, Jan. 14 in the moments after a shooting at the downtown Eugene venue, Wow Hall.

Shortly after, Hiura said Eugene Police Department (EPD) officers began arriving at WOW Hall. He said he flagged down an EPD officer and told them he saw the shooter and described the suspect to the police there.

According to Hiura, he has a cellphone video recording of the 12 shots during the shooting on his cellphone but EPD told him not to release it to the public.

KGW reached out to EPD about an update regarding the shooting and EPD responded via email Sunday saying they had no new information to release at this time.

Hiura said he was forthcoming, staying at the venue following the shooting. He spoke with the detectives and police there. Hiura said he also provided video and audio recordings to EPD.

“I’m keeping my thoughts closest with the victims,” Hiura said. “But I’m also really distraught for the performing arts community and particularly hip-hop.”

Hiura is a hip-hop performer himself and goes by the rapper name Gradient.

Hiura said hip-hop artists already struggle with booking agents assuming, “…that by inviting spoken word into their venue they’re inviting violence.”

Hiura said this stigma is ridiculous.

“There is such a wide variety of lanes in hip-hop and not a single one of those lanes is going to guarantee you’re going to have violent elements,” Hiura said.

Hiura said he thinks it’s foolish to focus on the actions of one person who may not have even been attending the show or gone into the building.

“Eugene has potential to be a really great tour stop because there’s not much between Portland and the Bay area,” Hiura said. He is worried that people might get the wrong impression of Eugene or hip-hop music in general.

Hiura also said he was disappointed by Eugene Police Chief Chris Skinner who gave a press conference late that night.

“He [Skinner] made a statement that is really regrettable saying no witnesses had come forward, had cooperated,” Hiura said.

“I directly saw the guy and directly gave my statement and multiple forms of multimedia evidence to multiple officers as quickly as I could.”

Hiura said he has seen some of the best shows of his life at the WOW Hall venue, and he’s never seen a weapon drawn there before Friday night.

“I don’t even think I’ve seen fights break out hand-to-hand at WOW Hall,” Hiura said.

The WOW Hall released a statement regarding the shooting on their website.

The statement reads in part, “We are shocked and saddened by the shooting that occurred outside our building on Friday, January 14. Our deepest sympathies are with the victims of this horrific event. We are taking immediate steps to focus our energies on supporting our staff, volunteers, patrons, members, and community-at-large, many of whom have expressed concern and grief. We are deeply affected by this event and expect to be for months to come. We are dedicated to marshaling the resources needed by the community.”

Eugene Police have set up a tip line for possible leads in the case. Police ask anyone with information to call 541-682-5162.

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