taft memorial shooting

Memorial Day weekend has long been a special time for the tiny east Oklahoma community of Taft.

“You meet with your family and friends,” Sandra Titsworth told the Muskogee Phoenix. “You meet with loved ones you hadn’t seen in years. It’s real special.”

The typically joyous weekend celebration was interrupted when a midnight shooting killed one woman and injured seven others at an outdoor festival. Witnesses described frantic people running for cover amid gunfire.

Authorities said a 26-year-old man was in custody. An arrest warrant was issued for Skyler Buckner and he turned himself in to the Muskogee County sheriff’s office Sunday afternoon, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said in a statement. OSBI said that those shot at the Memorial Day event in Taft, located about 45 miles (72 kilometers) southeast of Tulsa, ranged in age from 9 to 56.

Muskogee County District Attorney Larry Edwards said on Sunday afternoon that the investigation continues.

Edwards said four different types of casings, 40 casings in total, were found at the scene.

“It’s a miracle it was not worse,” Edwards said.

A 39-year-old woman was killed, OSBI said. The injuries of those wounded were considered non-life-threatening. Her identity was confirmed as Sherika Bowler. Former Early Childhood Center Principal Debra HorseChief said that Bowler had in the past been a teacher’s assistant.

Witnesses said an argument preceded the gunfire, OSBI said.

We heard a lot of shots and we thought it was firecrackers at first,” said Sylvia Wilson, an owner of Taft’s Boots Cafe, which was open at the time to serve a surge of visitors to the small town for the gathering. “Then people start running and ducking. And we were yelling at everyone… ’Get down! Get down!” Wilson said to The Associated Press by telephone from the café on Sunday morning.

About 1,500 people attended the event in Taft, which usually has a population of just a few hundred people. Members of the Muskogee County Sheriff’s Office were in attendance and immediately began rendering aid, OSBI said.