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A month after shooting incident, city leaders and wellness advocates kick off healing series at WOW Hall

Lucy Vinis, Mayor of Eugene, outside the WOW Hall during today's community healing event.
Brian Bull
Lucy Vinis, Mayor of Eugene, outside the WOW Hall during today's community healing event.

Almost a month after a mass shooting happened at the WOW Hall, organizers held a community healing event today. It was the first of four planned for the coming months.

During a hip-hop concert on January 14, an unknown shooter wounded six people who were standing at the back entrance of the building. Police, other law enforcement, and EMS personnel responded quickly, while WOW Hall patrons emptied the building. The alleged shooter reportedly ran away from the scene, westbound on West 8th Avenue.

The incident stunned and horrified Eugeneans, who had never seen such violence at the 90-year-old facility. The board of directors for the Community Center for the Performing Arts (CCPA) shared their deepest sympathies with the shooting victims, and said there were about 60 people inside the building during the incident.

At Sunday’s event, Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis said it was wonderful that the WOW Hall gave an opportunity for people to come together and support each other.

“Whoever comes, is whoever needs to come, right?” Vinis told KLCC. “It’s a beautiful day and people find their strength in many ways.”

As to the ongoing search for the suspect, the mayor expressed confidence in the Eugene Police detectives charged with the task.

“I’ve had the benefit of talking to Chief Skinner, and I know the investigation is proceeding,” she said. “They are putting their best expertise to work, and I’m hopeful they’ll find the person who committed this terrible act.”

Another participant at the community healing event was Jacob DeLong, of Coalescence: Ecstatic Dance. He said about two dozen people attended their presentation, to share support and the joy of movement.

The WOW Hall's interim executive director, Deb Maher, inside the facility before the day's events.
Brian Bull
The WOW Hall's interim executive director, Deb Maher, inside the facility before the day's events.

“I definitely think it gives an opportunity to heal from any major event. I know many people that come here for that reason. Dance is like its own medicine.”

At the front entrance of the WOW Hall, interim executive director Deb Maher greeted visitors and checked their COVID status. As for general safety concerns given that the shooter remains at large, she replied:

“We’re all a little still concerned, but it was such an anomaly, that we don’t really feel at risk. I will tell you that Chief Skinner told us straight out, that no one could have prevented this, no matter what we would have done. And we’re just grateful that all of the people that were hit are now well and okay.”

Maher said as tragic as the shooting has been, it’s drawn lots of support to the WOW Hall and its board has never been so cohesive. As to what she’d like to see become of the facility in its 90th year, Maher answered, “More of what it is.”

“The Wow Hall continues to be the heartbeat of the cultural community here in town. This incident made clear how important this building is. It’s incredibly important to Eugene and it’ll become more so as we move more into the future.”

Maher added that increased lighting and other measures will be taken after a security audit of the WOW Hall.

Mayor Vinis, as well as wellness advocates and spiritual leaders, rounded out Sunday’s program.

Three more WOW Hall community gatherings will be held on March 13, April 10, and May 15.

Meanwhile, the WOW Hall shooter remains at large. They’re described as a man in a hoodie. Eugene Police are taking tips on the suspect at (541)682-5162.

Copyright @2022, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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