By Donna Thornton/News Editor
The Etowah County Sheriff’s Department hosted another “Run, Hide, Fight” training class on Oct. 24, with the help of someone with a tragically unique perspective on violence in society.
Bryant Archer was a 17-year-old employee at Popeye’s in East Gadsden on April 15, 1994 when two men, including another 17-year-old who had worked at Popeye’s, entered the restaurant to commit a robbery. All four employees working that night to close the restaurant were shot; only Archer survived.
“This is the only incident of workplace violence Gadsden has had,” Archer said.
“Society wasn’t like it is now in 1994,” he continued. “Today people get shot every day, but not then.
“I’m still in ‘94. I still see it when I’m asleep,” Archer said. All the news stories of shootings in other public places take him back to that April night, Archer said.
After talking to people in the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office about the training the office is hosting to help people prepare for the possibility of an armed intruder at their place of employment, their school or church or other public setting, Archer decided he wanted to talk about what happened at Popeye’s and his thoughts on responding to violent attacks such as the ones the training is geared toward.
Archer said he also wanted to raise awareness about post-traumatic stress, something that has affected his life after the robbery/murders.
Regarding the training, Archer said he thinks there may be a word left out of the mission – listen.
He believes it is important for people to listen in their work environment.
By that he means all that’s going on and being said — in their workplace, school or other settings.
“If someone is talking in a negative way about work or not acting normal, people should talk to their boss.
“Businesses should have an open-door policy about that,” Archer said, to make employees feel comfortable talking about workplace behavior that makes them uncomfortable.
“That’s one thing that I see that’s not really implemented in the workplace.”
Archer, who now has two teenage children of his own, continues to deal with the affects of the incident at Popeye’s. He was shot five times, and he believes it has caused many employers to pass him by when hiring.
He said he thinks the prior injuries concern employers for insurance reasons.
“I guess if I owned a business I’d do the same thing,” Archer said.
In one job, working out of state, Archer said it was physical effects of the shooting that ended his employment.
“The job involved lifting more than 50 pounds above my head,” he said. “I started having shoulder problems. It was doing me more harm than good, and I had to give it up.”
Archer said he thinks more openness is needed in discussing problem behavior or attitudes at work or at school, if incidents such as those that led the sheriff’s office to offer this training.
That means information has to be shared with people who can investigate potential threats and take action, he said.