‘There was blood everywhere:’ Student recounts attempt to help shooting victim


Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz

Skyler Cantrell, 21, of Altona, poses for a portrait on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, outside of ABC Liquor Mart in Carbondale. Cantrell, an Altona volunteer firefighter, was on the scene of a four person shooting late Friday night in Carbondale.

By Brian Munoz, Editor in Chief

Skyler Cantrell said he was applying pressure to the bleeding stomach of a shooting victim when he heard someone screaming behind him.

“Get on the fucking ground! Get on the fucking ground!”

Cantrell said he didn’t know what was going on and was only focused on helping the gunshot victim.  He and a friend had been at ABC Liquor Mart when someone ripped open the drive-through window and yelled someone had been shot.

Cantrell asked to be let out of the store to help the man but when he asked someone to go with him, he had the door closed and locked behind him.

“Cool, guess I’m going into this by myself,” he told himself. He said he ran out to the alley and found a red SUV with the windows shot out.

“There was glass all over the place,” Cantrell said. “I opened the door and there was just blood everywhere.”

Cantrell said he found a man slumped over, hands clasping his stomach when the man began coughing up blood. He immediately slides into the car and begins putting pressure on his stomach.

The victim was one of four people shot outside of the liquor store on Friday night, according to a Carbondale Police press release.

Sgt. Doug Wilson, Carbondale Police spokesman, said the department’s priority is saving lives and that takes precedence over everything else.

“Until we can figure out the details, it is very difficult for us to know that anybody is an off-duty first responder, police officer or fireman or whatever the situation might be,” Wilson said.

Cantrell said he pulled his hands off of the bleeding victim, put his hands up and slowly went facedown on the glass- and blood-covered ground.

“I look up and the cop is standing there, 2 or 3 feet away from me, with an M4 pointed at me,” Cantrell said. “He screams at me and asks ‘What the fuck is going on?!’”

Cantrell said he attempted to explain he was a first responder trying to help an injured man.

“That’s when I genuinely feared for my life,” Cantrell said. “Cops are supposed to be there to protect us.”

At that moment, Cantrell said he started praying and believed he was going to get shot. Shortly after, he said the officer walked away from him.

When he looked up he saw the officers pulling the man out of the vehicle and the shooting victim began screaming.

Another officer went up to him and asked him the same series of questions. When Cantrell asked to show his ID, he was allowed to do so as this officer pointed his gun at him.

“The whole time, this dude’s bleeding out on the ground and [then the officer] asked me to go away,” Cantrell said.

Cantrell said he walked over to his friend and looked down at his own hands – they were covered in the man’s blood.

“I immediately pushed him away and started dry heaving,” Cantrell said.

A fourth officer took a statement from Cantrell and said he was free to go. When Cantrell asked him about the blood over him, he said the officer walked away.

Cantrell said he went back to his fraternity’s house and washed the blood off in the sink.

Shortly after, he was talking to his father on the phone when he heard a helicopter take off from Carbondale Memorial.

“I just started crying as soon as I heard it,” Cantrell said. “I don’t know if the dude is dead or not and that’s what bothers me the most about it.”

Cantrell said he wants the victim’s family to know someone was trying to help him that night.

“I want them to know their son wasn’t alone, someone was there trying to help him,” Cantrell said. “I can’t stop thinking about that.”

Cantrell said he and his family come from a service background.

His father, Richard, is the assistant fire chief for the Altona Volunteer Fire Department, a town of about 500 people in central Illinois.

Cantrell said he trained to obtain his first responder certification and began firefighting with his dad while in high school. Shortly after graduating, he joined the National Guard and is currently in the reserves.

The 21-year-old, a senior at Southern studying aviation management, came to the university in the summer of 2016.

Cantrell said he was shaken by the way the police handled the situation and treated him and the victim.

“From everything I noticed, there was just a complete lack of care – they just didn’t seem to care about what was going on from the way they just pulled the guy out of the car and laid him there as he was screaming,” Cantrell said.

Cantrell said the police were more worried “about stuffing him on the ground and yelling” at him rather than care of the victim.

“That’s the point of me having this training. In a situation like that, at least where I’m from, once the area is secured – the chain of command starts with the medical personnel,” Cantrell said.

Wilson said the Carbondale Police Department trains for active shooter scenarios yearly and judges each scenario on a case by case basis. He said the department’s most recent training was in December 2018.

“It’s important for the public to understand that when we get there, our job is to make sure everyone is okay and also make sure we do our best to protect lives and make sure justice is done,” Wilson said.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated the Carbondale Police department did not have a written policy for active shooting situations. Since publishing, representatives from the department reached out and said that was not the case. We have updated the piece to reflect the statement from Carbondale Police.

Brian Munoz, Editor in Chief, can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter at @BrianMMunoz

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.