Eyewitness: “People were crying” following gunshots at Fayette County protest

LOCHGELLY, W.Va. — Police are continuing to investigate the strange timeline of events that led to the sound of gunshots at a protest in Fayette County over the weekend.

Brandon Richardson, co-founder of Headwaters Defense, and approximately 50 other people led what they called a peaceful protest against waste water injection Saturday morning in the Lochgelly area near Oak Hill. That protest took a dark turn when a pair of gun shots rang out.

“It really traumatized all of us that were there,” he said. “People were crying. Some people were feeling unsafe and ready to leave–thought they might get shot.”

Nobody was injured, but competing versions of what happened were presented to the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department.

“This has been a problem,” Richardson said. “911 was not called right away, but that’s because at the point that it happened we didn’t expect for this injection-well operator to shoot at us.”

Headwaters Defense is described as an organization interested in protecting the water, health and rights of the citizens of Fayette County, West Virginia. Richardson and the other protesters had received permission to protest on private property adjacent to the Danny Webb Construction Company.

Richardson said the protest involved song, prayer, and hot dogs Saturday morning. According to Richardson, It wasn’t until a confrontation with company owner Danny Webb that things turned ugly.

“He didn’t want to have to confront us in any way,” he said. “There’s only one way out of his property. We think he just wanted a little police escort out of there.”

Just before noon, two gun shots rang out. The protesters thought Webb was sending them a message by firing gun shots into the air. According to the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department, Webb was also the man who called 911–claiming that the shots were coming from the protesters.

Richardson said that Webb’s version of the event was false.

“Everyone that was a participant was instructed not to bring firearms, not to bring alcohol or drugs,” he said.

Fayette County Sheriff Mike Fridley confirmed that the gunfire did not come from the protesters. He does not agree–based on the investigation thus far–that the shots came from Webb. Richardson said Monday that protesters are submitting phone video and written statements to the Sheriff’s Department.

“I’m confident, yeah,” Richardson said. “We asked him, ‘Danny, if you can hear us, beep twice.’ Then two very loud and close gun shots went off, and it was shortly after he had opened his door from his truck.”

Fridley confirmed to the AJR News Network that he met with Prosecuting Attorney Larry Harrah on Tuesday. Fridley said none of the video evidence thus far shows a gun in Mr. Webb’s hands.

“There is nothing to sustain that Webb was firing the weapon,” Fridley said in a phone call Tuesday.

Richardson and the protesters also claim Webb attempted to do them additional harm with his motor vehicle.

“As Mr. Webb was leaving, he sped towards the protesters,” he said. “There were a couple walking along the side of the rode, and he even tried to swerve to hit a few of them.”

Fridley said that remains under investigation, but said there is nothing on video that supports that accusation.

Additionally, no shell casings or firearms were found at the scene. Fridley said it’s possible that the gunshots were coincidental–plausibly from someone performing target practice well-removed from the Lochgelly stand-off. Fridley said he expects additional witnesses to come forward.

An attempt was made to reach Mr. Webb for comment, but the phone number listed for his business is no longer active.

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