Former Rocky Mountain News photographer captured Alexandria ball field shooting scene

Former Rocky Mountain News photographer Essdras Suarez lives across the street from the ballpark in Alexandira. He was all packed to go teach photojournalism in Ecuador when he heard the gunshots.

One of the first images from that Virginia ball field came from a former Rocky Mountain News photographer who now lives across the street from where the shooting happened.

Essdras M Suarez was all packed to head to Ecuador, where he’s headed to teach photojournalism, when he and his wife heard the gunshots.

"At first I thought it was construction going on because there was a rhythm to the shooting, so the shooter actually went 'boom, boom, boom,' and my wife was like, ‘Are those shots?' And I'm like, ‘I don't think so, that's too rhythmic, and then the rhythm changed. And then, I actually think I heard other caliber guns, and I'm like, 'Ok, that's actual shooting.’ I decided I got to go.”

If it was not for trees outside, Suarez could have watched the scene from his bedroom window. He unpacked his gear, and ran to the rooftop, but still couldn’t get a clear sight line.

“I ran across the street and went on a bridge, an overpass, and from there – when I was getting there, it was exactly the moment when they were transporting the person that was wounded,” Suarez says. “So I got that, and I got the helicopter leaving just scene setters of the police just walking the road and that kind of stuff, and then I moved away (inaudible). Once I started shooting it happened pretty fast.”

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Suarez isn’t sure that the person he photographed on a stretcher shows Congressman Steve Scalise, the majority whip in the House of Representatives who was critically wounded.

“This was actually very, very fast, just after 7. I would say 7:10. I heard about 30 of them. And by the time I got the shot of that person, the wounded person taken away, and then focusing back on the police on the streets, there was already no sense of urgency, so if they killed the perpetrator right away, must’ve been the case because it was already done. From then on it was all mop-up.”

Suarez, who’s covered both the Columbine and Sandy Hook school shootings. He knows how the scenes unfold, and how the evolve.

“I know there will be vigils tonight and over the weekend. I know exactly how it goes, sadly enough,” he says. “I remember heading out to Newtown, and I remember becoming ‘Columbine sad.’ I don’t know if that makes any sense but I kind of sort of knew what to expect and the amount of pain and sorrow I would be witnessing. I knew it would be pretty much the same story, different place, different circumstances.”

If Suarez’s photo does not appear above, you can see it on his Facebook page.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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