Fajita Man Mark Motsch remembers thinking it was going to be an exceptional night.
The students flocked in masses to Campustown for the first time this semester with calm weather, which peaked at 66 degrees Saturday.
“It was going to be another pleasant night,” Motsch said, recollecting on Friday as well. “I mean it was a lot of people out … it was just kind of putting weather behind us for at least this weekend anyway.”
That all changed, however, when shots were fired into a crowd near his vendor cart on Welch Avenue at 1:34 a.m. Sunday.
Confusion arose. Motsch remembers ducking behind his cart, his employee fleeing behind him. Students had just started lining up at his cart as it was his normal busy hours.
“Our line was starting to form and we’re involved with that and [trying to] serve them as quick as possible, and then I heard the what are now believed to be the gunshots,” Motsch said. “Which at first I thought was someone lighting off firecrackers.
“But then when I looked up and saw the vehicle and the hand extended out and the flash [of the gun] … it was no longer just firecrackers.”
The students waiting for food at his vendor cart took cover behind the parked cars in front of the post office, Motsch said. By the time he said he looked up again, the red passenger car that police later reported fired shots into the crowd was gone.
“When we got up they were gone, and people started to form and that’s when we realized some individuals got injured,” Motsch said.
The Ames Police Department said it believes the shooting stemmed from a fight earlier that evening outside of AJ’s Ultra Lounge on Stanton Avenue and Chamberlain Street that occurred at 1:28 a.m., according to police logs.
Ben Singh, the owner of AJ’s Ultra Lounge, said he saw the fight that police were initially called to at that time. He was working the door and described the fight between the individuals as physical, lasting about three minutes.
He recalled seeing one individual on the ground.
Ames Police Cmdr. Geoff Huff said Sunday that a short time after the fight, in which two police officers were on scene to investigate, is when the shooting erupted.
“When you finally made visual contact on what was going on, then you of course act fast,” Motsch said. “Even now going back and reading the narrative that the news outlets have put out based on what the police said occurred, you don’t know what to think.”
Huff said Sunday morning that the officers shot at the red passenger car and was unsure whether the officers hit the vehicle or one of the occupants, but that it was a possibility.
Two Iowa Central Community College students — Terrion Maxfield, 20, and Desmon Siner, 19 — were later arrested in Fort Dodge on attempted murder charges in connection with the shooting after being located at UnityPoint Health Trinity Regional Medical Center with gunshot wounds.
Two other individuals — Charles Smith, 20, and Traveion Henry, 21 — were arrested on charges for aiding and abetting attempted murder.
“I don’t even recall what I was thinking at the time other than get down and get behind the cart and protect yourself," Motsch said. "Was it an isolated incident? Was it payback because of what is now lead to be an altercation?”
Three individuals were injured in the shooting, according to police. Two of the victims involved in the shooting were transported to Mary Greeley Medical Center for further treatment, and the other was transported to a hospital in Des Moines.
Police reported Sunday that all three were facing non-life threatening injuries.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Motsch said the police reacted quickly and immediately got the areas blocked off, reiterating thanks for the law enforcement involved.
“They did a fantastic job,” Motsch said. He also echoed a remark made by Huff should the officers had not been at the scene of the shooting when it occurred: “It could have been a lot worse.”
Motsch was on scene of the shooting until 3:45 a.m., even though he usually heads out for the night 45 minutes earlier. Ultimately, he said he hopes this type of behavior does not become a new norm.
“We don’t want to be in an environment where we have to worry about our safety, our workers' safety as well as the safety of the students. It’s very discerning,” Motsch said.
The Daily's Emily Barske and Ryan Young contributed reporting to this story.