Music Opinion: When bad things happen to good people 

In last week’s Connect, I pointed readers toward a Friday night triple-bill of unconventional rock bands at Live Wire Music Hall. First on that bill was the brand-new local trio Surt {The Destroyer}.

I was unable to attend the gig, but heard from reliable sources the group (which had woodshedded for months) turned in a great performance. Unfortunately for the bandmembers, a night they should forever be able to look back on as a triumphant expression of their creative tenacity they’ll now recall as a horrifying, life-altering catastrophe.

A scant five hours after leaving the stage, with the echoes of a well-received gig still ringing in their ears, two of the band’s members lay bleeding by the roadside in Ardsley Park, felled by single, multi-tasking bullet in a perversely cruel twist of fate.

Details remain sketchy, but based on information from those in direct contact with the victims, what appears to be known is this: While waiting on the sidewalk for a friend, bassists Jason Statts and David J. Williams were approached by two strangers on foot who offered them drugs.

They declined.

The strangers then asked for money.

They declined, but as a gesture of goodwill, offered both strangers a beer.

They accepted. Then they left — only to return unexpectedly and shoot Statts point blank in the neck, without warning or provocation. That bullet ricocheted, coming to rest in Williams’ own throat.

The perpetrators? Well, like the cowards they are, they ran.

As of press time, both victims are hospitalized in extremely serious condition. Williams cannot speak or eat and breathes only with a ventilator. Statts, initially paralyzed from the neck down, has regained slight movement in his arms, but still has no feeling in his legs. His C6 vertebrae is shattered, and doctors are concerned his own difficulties breathing may lead to pneumonia. He will doubtlessly require no small amount of rehab and therapy.

I have known both men for years through their roles not only as serious musicians, but as ardent and outspoken supporters of the local original music scene.

Additionally, they are both tremendously talented illustrators and graphic artists whose work has graced many of this city’s most stunning concert posters of the past decade, as well as the album covers of numerous local and Athens-based bands. The fact neither appears to have definitively lost use of their hands is one of the few positive aspects of this demoralizing tale.

These are kindhearted, creative young people gunned down seemingly for no reason (as if there’s ever a legitimate reason for attempted murder, save defending someone’s life against imminent threat).

According to Judy Pal, of the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police, while the shooting was initially characterized as an “attempted robbery” (an inaccurate description) it is now —thankfully—being handled by their Violent Crimes Unit.

She assures me that at least five officers (some from Homicide Division) are working this case, and “nothing but this case.”

That’s heartening, but if there was ever another event to hopefully galvanize local taxpayers into demanding our City government immediately make eradicating such thuggish crimes of violence and intimidation their Number One Priority (and I don’t mean by cranking up another time and money wasting Committee To Ruminate On How We Might Best Get Our Act Together & Perhaps Consider Putting The Hammer Down), then this is surely it.

Many in Savannah already feel they’re living in a frequently lawless state of fear — The Wild West festooned with a deceptively calming canopy of Spanish Moss.

As both victims are white and both assailants are black, I would urge readers to strenuously resist the temptation to frame this ugliness in terms of race or class.

I personally choose to view this heartbreaking, sick making tragedy through the prism of filmmaker John Waters, who once wrote, “I guess there are just two kinds of people in this world — my kind of people and assholes.”

Jason and Dave are my kind of people, and that’s what this is all about.

An outpouring of solidarity and support from the local music community has already begun, and in the coming weeks and months, you will likely read in this paper of one or more events designed to benefit Jason and Dave’s medical expenses (one of them is completely uninsured). I implore all of you to please consider attending or simply donating to any such event.

It’s just the kind of thing both these players and artists could always —and thankfully still can— be counted on to do.

For information on how you can easily help with the victims’ medical bills, go to stattswilliams.com.


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Jim Reed

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