U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Shot fired at empty Alabama newspaper office, none injured

Incident Details

May 7, 2023

The Moundville Times reported that an unknown individual fired a bullet through a window of the newspaper’s office in Moundville, Alabama, in early May 2023. The office was empty at the time and no one was injured.

The Times reported that the shooting happened sometime between May 3 and May 7. On May 7, Editor Travis Vaughn noticed a piece of molding had fallen off the wall. Then, three days later, when moving a plant on the windowsill, he discovered damage to the blinds and a hole in the window.

Police later recovered the bullet from an interior wall and are investigating the incident, which would be a felony, the paper reported.

Vaughn told WBRC-TV that he is worried about whether it was a random accident or if someone targeted the newsroom.

“It's very scary. It's very disturbing to think about what could have been,” Vaughn said. “You try to do a good job and you try to be fair, but you have to cover the news. So you wonder: Could it be somebody retaliatory, or a message of, ‘Hey, back off.’”

Vaughn did not respond to requests for additional comment.

Moundville Police Chief Toby Banks told the weekly newspaper that shootings in downtown Moundville are rare.

“Since I’ve been chief here, you can count on one hand the number of incidents even remotely like this in downtown Moundville,” Banks said. “We’re hoping no one was targeting the Moundville Times and that it was just someone goofing off or someone made it accidentally happen.”

Publisher Tommy McGraw wrote in an op-ed for the newspaper on May 17 that both the Times and its sister paper, the Sumter County Record Journal, have received numerous threats over the more than 30 years they’ve been publishing.

“That is the sad and frightening thing about being in the newspaper business, sometimes fearing for your life for doing the right thing, exposing corruption, and printing the truth,” McGraw wrote.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].