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Monday, May 27, 2024

Unsung heroes of Ebby’s active shooter standoff honored by sheriff

Holiday Chevrolet Cadillac employees Donald Walton, left, and Michael Hudgins, center, shake hands with Sheriff J.D. “Danny” Diggs after receiving Certificates of Commendation for their efforts in saving the life of a shooting victim in July. Members of tactical teams deployed in the standoff with the shooter were present. (Andrew Harris/WYDaily)

Five members of the York County community were honored Thursday for taking action to help save a fellow citizen in July.

Ebby’s Auto Painting/Collision Shop on Second Street was the site of a shooting the morning of July 25, when a Hampton man allegedly shot employee Joseph St. Clair several times in a domestic dispute.

An hours-long standoff between police and the shooter ensued before the suspect was captured by police. St. Clair survived, in no small part because of the heroism of his coworkers and business neighbors.

Sheriff J.D. “Danny” Diggs of the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office presented the group with Certificates of Commemoration for their decisive actions Thursday.

“Y’all went above and beyond,” he said while presenting the awards. “You put yourselves in peril when you didn’t have to. You put yourselves at risk and made our jobs a lot easier that day…Your actions saved his life, so we appreciate that very much and it is our honor to recognize you.”

The Certificate of Commendation given to employees of Ebby’s and Holiday Chevrolet. (Andrew Harris/WYDaily)

The first to be honored was a trio of Ebby’s employees, who were able to get a badly bleeding St. Clair out of the auto shop and away from the shooter.

“When I found him, he was basically lying in a pool of blood. I didn’t think he was going to make it, honestly,” said Ebby’s employee Joseph Cicalo. “I didn’t know what to do. Every time I tried to move him, he would scream…It wasn’t until later that I realized how scary it was.”

Cicalo and coworker Gary Mahoney placed St. Clair on a plastic bumper cover that was lying around the shop, using it as a makeshift gurney. They saw the shooter’s face in a small window on the door as they contemplated their next move.

“We didn’t know what he was going to do, he walked away from the door so it was time to go,” Mahoney said. “It took us seconds to get him out.”

They carried St. Clair from the property to the Chevrolet and Cadillac dealership next door.

Ebby’s employees Joseph Cicalo, left, and Gary Mahoney hold their Certificates of Commendation. (Andrew Harris/WYDaily)

Donald Walton, parts associate at Holiday Chevrolet Cadillac, said he was sitting at his desk when a coworker ran down the hallway, yelling for doors to be locked because there was an active shooter in the vicinity.

Walton said had not heard any shots, so he cracked open the door and saw people — including Ebby’s employees — fleeing his direction. He then ventured outside to see if he could help. Walton began ushering people inside the dealership when he saw three Ebby’s employees dragging an injured man on a bumper cover.

A member of a junior rescue squad as a teenager, the 53-year-old Walton said what he remembered from his youth came in handy as he went to work trying to stop the bleeding.

“Anybody that asked me what to do, I just told them, ‘Stop the bleeding, keep him talking, stop the bleeding, keep him talking,’” Walton said. “I had my hands over the wounds that were bleeding the most profusely…We really had no idea how much blood he had lost, but I was looking at his color and knew it was a lot.”

Walton said the victim had turned gray, and doubted he would pull through. Regardless, he insisted on staying by his side until paramedics took him away.

“All I could think of was if somebody had walked in and shot me and I was laying out on the ground, I would like to think somebody would come up and do the same for me,” Walton said.

Not long after the shooting, Walton had to take two months off work to undergo treatment for prostate cancer. He said he did not know the victim’s fate, but spent a lot of his time away from work thinking about and praying for St. Clair to survive and make a full recovery.

On his very first day back in the office after returning from his treatment, Walton was told he had a visitor at the front desk.

“I went up there and it was him,” Walton said, choking back tears. “He shook my hand and thanked me for everything I did …That’s all I wanted, to know he was okay, because I had a whole lot of people praying for him, and I had done everything in my power to help him.”

“My only motivation was paying it forward.”

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