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Bessemer business owner ID'd as man killed in drive-by shooting at Fairfield hotel

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America's Best Inn Homicide > 8
Brad Watkins.JPG>Bradley Neil WatkinsFacebook 

A man killed when a stray bullet from a drive-by shooting entered his room at a Fairfield hotel has been identified as a Bessemer business owner.

The Jefferson County Coroner's Office on Tuesday identified the victim as Bradley Neil Watkins. He was 50, and owned The Vintage Station, which was located in the old train station and specialized in salvaged materials for custom furniture and remodeling. The business also served as a ministry. Watkins attended Huffman High School.

The shooting happened at 10:36 p.m. outside America's Best Inn & Suites on Kelco Place. Police said dozens of shots rang out in a drive-by and many of them struck the hotel. Watkins was in a third-floor room when he was struck by a bullet that penetrated the wall. He was pronounced dead on the scene at 11:04 p.m.

Multiple shell casings were scattered in the roadway in front of the hotel, and there was a bullet hole in the glass of the front door leading to the lobby. Workers put duct tape over the hole and were sweeping up glass as the investigation was ongoing. Police marked at least 36 shell casings in the roadway, but witnesses on the scene estimated about 100 shots were fired.

A group of underage teens were at the hotel when the gunfire erupted, and their family members were summoned to the hotel to pick them up. Police would not say what the teens' possible involvement was, but they were being questioned by officers. Witnesses said word on the street is that the shooting was retaliation for an earlier drive-by shooting in Birmingham. Police have not confirmed that account.

Fairfield police have not yet announced any arrests in the case.

watkinspray.jpg>Brad Watkins and workers at The Vintage Station in Bessemer prayed after fire swept through the business on March 27, 2017. The business was also a ministry. GoFundMe 

In March, fire swept through The Vintage Station. Watkins started a GoFundMe account to help rebuild and this is what he wrote then: 

"Over the last three years, we have worked tirelessly, not just to build beautiful furniture, but the main focus of what we do every day is to pour out our hearts and efforts into the men that work here. Our goal is to grow closer to Christ as a team and as a family. 

We suffered a catastrophic loss last night. Tuesday March 27th, we had a fire that has destroyed a large portion of the building, all of our machinery and materials. These are material things. These can all be replaced. It is the growing spiritual lives of the men who work here that are in dire jeopardy.

Although we attempted on at least ten occasions to get insurance, we were refused.

Tens of thousands of our friends have come through The Vintage Station and we consider all of you our family. We do not have the funds to rebuild. We are asking all of you to give generously. This, although heartbreaking, can be a beautiful story of renewal. A story of the body of Christ putting a marker in the ground and saying loudly, "We will stand! We will not be defeated!" 

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