Niece Amber back at work with a bullet hole

Published 10:47 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2022

By Ricky Swindle

Muffler Shop Musings

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My brother Mike and his family have had more trouble than Job lately with losing his wife Sissy. Then the big wedding of their daughter Amber came along 8 short days after the loss of her mother.

Amber is a special young lady to me and always will be. She is the first of my only two nieces, both of whom I absolutely adore as all Southern uncles do.

She was a great student at South Panola and received a band scholarship to Delta State. She met her future husband while playing together in the pep band at the university.

Amber worked through college, graduated and received her teaching degree and then decided teaching wasn’t really for her. 

Her Daddy said find something you enjoy that pays and do it.

So, the little sweet ditzy blond haired girl with a teaching degree started working for a place in Oxford being a dog groomer. She had a knack for animals and it seems they always took a liking to her too.

Her grooming skills improved greatly and she was contacted by another company to work for a salary that took me by surprise 

Sad to say, but a dog groomer’s pay is a heck of a lot more than a teacher brings home. Life’s not all about money and it’s never hard work when you truly love your job.

She gave her notice and waited until after her wedding and honeymoon to start her new job. On June 1 she began her first day at a newer office across from Kroger in Oxford. 

Then, a week later on June 8, Mike got a call and hollered, “I got to go, Amber’s been shot!”

I was stunned and didn’t know what to do. After a few calls to local law enforcement, BPD Asst. Chief George Williford let me know that he found out she was in an ambulance, but doing okay.

Sheriff Phelps drove me to the hospital because I was in panic mode and he said I shouldn’t be driving. The hospital was on lockdown when we got there so I’m glad he was there to get me in.

Amber was sitting up in the bed laughing when I came in the room and she said, “Uncle Ricky, some crazy dude shot me.”

I only stayed a minute but I just needed to see her face.

The groomer place is in a new strip mall in Oxford and it’s backed up against an older neighborhood. A 69 year old man not right in the head and living with his mother decided to take a .22 bolt action rifle and start shooting out of his bedroom window.

Amber was simply minding her own business and walking to her car on her lunch break.

She said she kept hearing pops but it sounded like small firecrackers and she paid no attention to it until she fell, realizing she’d been shot.

She called the store to ask for help with bullets still zinging by her. The other employees ran out in the middle of it all and got her safely inside and called 911.

Now folks, I know for a fact mental illness is a horrible situation and I sympathize for any person affected by it – be it the patient or the family. 

One of the hardest things I had to do years ago was to commit someone I loved, but I had to do it for their safety and the safety of others.

There’s nothing wrong with folks who, to put it plainly, are a bit off in the head; but when you’re a little off and you become dangerous, something has to be done. From what I’ve been told, this was not the first time this guy has shot a weapon from his window.

This was my niece who was wounded, it could’ve been anyone’s, it could’ve been yours.

The fellow is still in jail charged with aggravated assault. No matter his mental state, the fact is he did commit a crime.

Jails are full of mentally ill people and we need a better system to serve their needs. If he cannot be properly supervised outside, then he’s going to need to be in a place where he can be watched and that place is jail.

Amber, 6 days after being shot and with her leg bandaged, went back to work. She has a new parking spot now right out front.

She still has her smile, her laugh and her good natured outlook on the world. She’s still our Amber, she just has a bullet hole now.

Take care of yourself folks and hug up on your young’uns every chance you get.