South Bend, Ind. Witnesses at the scene of a shooting on South Bend’s west side Thursday evening said the display of a version of the Confederate flag led to an argument that ended in gunshots.
South Bend police are receiving conflicting stories about the moments leading up to the shooting in the 600 block of Birdsell St.
A shot spotter alert brought police to the scene around 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
Police located the victim, 28-year-old Richard Dillman, who was transported from the scene with gunshot wounds to the cheek and back. Dillman’s injuries are not life threatening.
Beyond those main facts, police say reports vary widely about what led up to the violence.
“A lot of the components of the story are opposing one another,” Capt. Phil Trent of the South Bend Police Dept. said Friday. “Instead of this puzzle having 20 pieces, it has 500.”
Police could not confirm the role that a Confederate flag may have played in the shooting.
But friends and family told NewsCenter16 that Dillman was sporting a version of the Confederate flag off the side of his Ford Explorer at the time of the incident. They said the flag had a U.S. Army emblem and writing and was mounted to the back or side of the car.
Dillman, an army veteran from Arkansas, was visiting a friend who lived on Birdsell Street when the incident took place.
“He was driving over here and he got down the corner a bunch of people started yelling at him about the flag,” Dillman’s friend, Cally Baker said. “I don't know exactly what they we're saying but I can assume Richard was yelling back at them.”
Other witnesses at the scene described an exchange of racial slurs.
“I see this huge Confederate flag and some guys yelling slurs,” said witness J.J. who asked not to use his last name. “I couldn't tell what slurs were going back and forth.”
Accounts from this point vary widely.
Some witnesses said Dillman was armed but others maintain that he was not.
“I've never known him to handle a gun and for him to instigate something is very hard to believe,” Baker said.
Capt. Trent could not confirm whether Dillman was armed at the time of the argument. The vehicle has been secured on police premises for investigational purposes.
Dillman was the only victim. After being shot twice he drove over to Baker’s home and police arrived on the scene.
Right now, police only have Dillman’s side of the story. The three individuals, one of whom is assumed to be the shooter, left the scene before police arrived.
“We want to talk to these individuals from the opposing side because we want to get the story and see aggravating and mitigating circumstances,” Capt. Trent said.
Original reports described the suspect as a thin, black male. Some reports said the three men left the scene in a red vehicle with chrome wheels, possibly a Pontiac Grand Prix.
“The violence really needs to stop and calm down here and across the country, whether it’s racially motivated or not,” one witness said.
The victim’s friend agreed.
“When you hear of African Americans and Caucasians arguing it ends up being a race issue,” Baker said. “And it’s frustrating, especially for someone like me that lives in the area. I don’t want people to feel threatened by me and vice versa.”
Dillman is expected to be released from the hospital on Friday.
Police said the investigation is ongoing and the search continues for the suspect.