Bar evacuated as shooting unfolded


CHAMPAIGN — As shots were fired down the block, bar employees had to think quickly. Some watched it all happen from the Red Lion patio. One employee explains how they reacted.

T.J. Callahan says, “We definitely weren’t at max capacity, but it was a typical Saturday night, pretty busy.” 

Meaning the music was loud and the crowd at Red Lion was scattered among the bar and two patios, but people didn’t get the 2 am closing they were expecting. 

“All of a sudden I start hearing pop, pop, pop. And right away everyone in the beer garden knew it wasn’t music.” 

Callahan says he’d never heard a gunshot before, but there was no mistaking what it was. One former student, on the way to Red Lion, captured that moment on Snapchat.

“No one inside could really hear it, and our security and our carder and a couple guys out here heard it. Even some guys in the other beer garden heard it.”

He says security quickly got everyone inside, turned on the lights and cut the music. 

“I really don’t think a lot of people in there knew what was going on.” 

Callahan says says pretty soon it seemed like every cop in the county was flooding the area. Some pulled up to the front of the bar so no one would leave toward the scene. While there was plenty of confusion, he says it didn’t take long for people to get out.

Callahan says, “Once we got the okay from police and security to start leaving the bar, people started shuffling out this door, and out the back gate out there.”

Callahan says that’s when people started to realize what had happened, and what could have happened.

“That could’ve been me leaving work to go get food.”

He says the bar has never drawn up an evacuation plan for something like this, and was surprised how well everyone handled it without panicking. Meanwhile, the shooter who set this all into motion is still on the run.

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