The shootings shook my world

Letter to the Editor

Posted 2/23/24

Life altering. That's what this weekend was to me. I've never had an event shake my existence the way Saturday night did.


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The shootings shook my world

Letter to the Editor

OKEECHOBEE — With permission of the author, this Facebook post is being shared. Billy Brodbeck was one of the many affected by the President's Day weekend shooting out on the Prairie:
Life altering. That's what this weekend was to me. I've never had an event shake my existence the way Saturday night did. In faith, in personal belief, in things that "could never happen to you".
This weekend, like all other Presidents Day weekends for more years than I can count, began Friday evening with a large group of my friends and family joining at the camp in Okeechobee for a nice family-oriented few days of four wheeling, kids play and campfires, and Saturday was just that, a great day. We did our thing, returned to camp, ate dinner, sat by a fire and around 10 - 10:30 Saturday night, the rains started and most went to settle in.
I went to our camper, showered and laid down with my wife, about 10 minutes in I heard the first volley of shots ring out very close to camp.. Idiots, I mumbled to my wife, then the second volley...louder. During the third, I realized what was happening and jumped out of bed to adress the situation. "Why do they sound like that?" Catrina asked. I answered "because they are shooting at us."
As I rushed to dress there was a loud panicked knock at the camper door, thinking it was my dad coming to get me to help adress the situation I yelled "I'm coming."  I was answered by three words that will be burned into my brain until the day I die. My mother's shaken panicked voice. "Dad's been shot."
I don't know if I got my clothes on the rest of the way. I don't know what I said to anyone in the next few minutes. I know that I exited the camper with my side arm and in an attempt to give some audible indication that we were down range I fired my gun and screamed at the top of my lungs for them to cease. They didn't.
I made it to my dad to find him sitting on a cooler, blood running from his neck, his friend tending to him, rounds still continously ripping through camp, people on the phone with the sheriff, people yelling to stop, sisters crying.. fear..anger. But .. my dad the one guy shot. Telling me "I'm OK son it's just a graze"..I've shot enough animals in my life to recognize an entry wound and his words conforted me to the extent I knew his spirits were there but not any further than that.
The shooting didn't stop. No matter how loud we yelled, it began to me to feel more and more malicious. I returned to our camper, and directed my wife to take our kids and lay on the floor between the driver and passenger seat at the far end from the shooter's direction. I then armed myself better and returned to my father's camper. By the grace of God within the next two minutes the first red and blues appeared. He passed our camp but in doing so was able to pinpoint where the shots were coming from, and I believe them seeing his lights is the only thing that shut down the shooting.
When it all ended, we swept camp to make sure everyone else was accounted for. We ended up with dad shot, another individual took a 30-06 round through her camper door jam, and an interior wall and it had lost enough velocity to bounce off her leg and lay in bed with her. Other than that we had holes in trucks and campers. A small small price considering the 100s of shots we heard ripping through camp that night.
The sherriff and FWC officers encountered at least seven non-English speaking individuals. They claim to have been shooting at a small oak tree in the rain and dead of night that was in direct line of our camp but under 100 yards away. A camp with generators running, LED lights shining off campers and a fire burning ... very very hard to swallow. Firearms were confiscated, an arrest was made, but the impacts of this evening. Unexplainable.
The impact on my personal life from this night will still be worked out. My dad is alive and he says he is fine. He has a bullet lodged under his clavicle and the shot went through his necklace and lodged a peice of shrapnel close to the artery. The stubborn *** acts like he stubbed a toe and we will be exploring all the best options as how to move forward. I had to witness a fear in my daughters eyes that I pray to God no one ever has to see in theirs. Shes not sleeping and was extremely panicked that "they were going to come back." William didn't cry but watching your sons shake in fear is enough to make a man want to take on an army.
All this being said. This is the message. I am 100 percent pro gun. This night, if not proven to be something more, was not caused by guns. It was caused by ignorance and a level of stupidity that I can not comprehend by the people handling them. The only thing that brought comfort to me in the moment was the fact that myself and others in camp were armed and if it were to be pressed further, we were ready and able to attempt to protect our families. God is very real. The level of protection placed over us that evening is nothing short than miraculous.
I thank God for the people he surrounded my father with this evening, and I love everyone of them as family. Guns are a very important part of what makes us a free and great country, and litigation can not replace education. If you handle firearms, do not do it lightly. If you are raising children around them, do not wait to implement the basics. Trigger safety, backdrop, angle. But more than anything common sense. Be safe, thank your God, and love your families.