Ruskin, Florida - It happened Sunday around 4:45 PM as the library was closing for the day. Melody Steele-Martin says it wasn't just the violence that left her shaken up but the way Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies and library staff reacted that has her upset.
She and her daughter stopped by the library for what was supposed to be a routine visit so her ten-year-old daughter, Miranda, could pick out some books. Martin says “And when we went to check out I heard a noise. It was like a loud (claps her hands together)."
According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's office the gunfire came from a 66-year-old man who they say fired a shot in one of the men's bathrooms. It happened inside a bathroom that's located just outside the libraries main entrance.
Martin says she walked over to the check out counter to find out what they should do. "So I went with my books and said where can we go and she said there's a backdoor right here you can go out there and I said are we safe? Are the doors locked? Her response was, 'oh yeah I guess we should lock the doors.' "
Martin says after the shooting it appeared to be business as usual. She said at the check out counter people continued to work and she couldn't tell whether the library even had an emergency plan in place. “Nobody from the library staff came to comfort us, take us to safety, and tell us what was going on."
She says she grabbed her daughter and headed for a bathroom located in the children's section of the library. She locked herself and her daughter inside. "I was told to go out of a back door by myself with my child."
My car was around the front where I heard the shooting from. I was terrified. My daughter was crying and I told them I'm not going anywhere until a police officer comes and takes me to safety."
In about 30 minutes the entire ordeal was over. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office preliminary findings are that the man took his own life. It's something Martin says she only found out after the incident was over.
She wonders what would happen if a gunman entered the library. The library does not have metal detectors but does have detectors near the front entrance that go off if someone tries to take library materials out without checking them out.
When asked whether Martin would return to the library she says "I'm not sure. I'm not sure."
We contacted the Tampa – Hillsborough County Public Library system to find out what type of emergency response policy is in place not only at Southshore Regional library but at all of the public libraries. We were told "This is a first for the library system" and that “This is a law enforcement issue.”
We were also told there would be no comment from the agency until after the sheriff's department investigation is completed. That could take two weeks.
Tammie Fields, Tampa Bay's 10 News