Rochester Hills mayor: Heart breaks after shooting, 'but it doesn't change who we are'

Mayor Bryan Barnett admits perhaps it was foolish to never think the scourge of gun violence would afflict his city like it did over the weekend.

In describing the mood of the community after a gunman wounded nine people at a Rochester Hills splash park in the early evening on Saturday, he said it was probably like his: "Immense sadness, spots of anger, and tremendous moments of hope and optimism."

During the 30-minute drive to the scene, he went through in his head what a strong mayor would do in this situation and the tone he'd need to project.

"And I walked up to the scene and I started crying," Barnett said. "I couldn't really control it because what you see when you walk up to that splash pad is so jarring mentally and emotionally, it's hard to think of anything else."

His mind raced from the victims to the proverbial question of "why?"

"Why did this guy choose our splash pad? Why did he choose a Saturday afternoon?"

But Barnett also promised he wouldn't spend more time dwelling on the shooter. The energy it would take would be a waste.

The fallout from the mass shooting is still reverberating throughout metro Detroit. The 42-year-old man from Shelby Township behind the shooting died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after police converged on his home over the weekend.

For many of the victims, they are reported in stable condition after suffering gunshot wounds in their legs and arms. 

However, the status of one family is still uncertain after an 8-year-old was shot in the head. Their mother and another child were also injured in the shooting, according to the family's gofundme, which has since been verified by the Oakland County Sheriff's Office as real.


Rochester Hills splash pad shooting: Motive still unclear after 9 wounded

A motive is still unclear after the Rochester Hills splash pad shooting over the weekend. Nine people were wounded.

Barnett also told FOX 2 about another person injured in Saturday's shooting at the Brooklands Plaza Splash Pad. An employee of the city was with his family and friends at the time. Their spouse and two others in the group were both struck.

"I spoke to him on the phone (on Saturday). As you might imagine, emotions were running high. At the end, the summation was he was grateful," he said. "With everything he loved and valued in that little small park, I think he recognized that it could have been a lot worse."

The mayor commended the Oakland County Sheriff's Office with coordinating the response to the shooting, which included over a hundred first responders. But residents also came to help, including some bringing tourniquets from their car to help victims, the mayor said.

And the offer for help didn't stop at the county's borders. 

Barnett said he got messages from the governor, the White House, and over 70 other mayors across the country. Some passed along resources, including a playbook for what to do in the wake of a mass shooting. 

But even with the groundswell of support, a larger figure hovers over the city. Rochester Hills is one of the safest cities in America. About 70,000 people call it home and the chances of a resident being a victim of a crime is one of the lowest in the U.S., as the city has touted in recent years.

And yet, even one of the country's safest still can't escape the kind of violence that has rebounded across Michigan and beyond.

"The city of Rochester Hills, God, I love my community and my heart breaks for where we are today, but it doesn't change who we are," he said.