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Backstreet Cafe shooting survivor reflects on gunman’s death

Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 4:02 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The man convicted of opening fire at a Roanoke gay bar has died, and survivors are speaking out about the tragedy more than 20 years later.

Ronald Gay was serving back-to-back life sentences for the shooting at Backstreet Cafe in September 2000 that killed one man and injured six others.

One of those people was Joel Tucker, who was shot in the back while out with friends at the bar that night, including his friend Danny Overstreet, who was killed.

“He was a wonderful guy. We used to hang out and sing karaoke. I knew Danny very well and it just breaks my heart for his family that it happened to him, and it could have happened to all of us,” says Tucker, who remembers making plans to play pool with his friends that night at the bar.

“I used to go there a lot when I was younger. I thought it was a safe place, a fun place to hang out with my friends,” says Tucker. “Everybody getting off work, wanting to shoot some pool and listen to music, a nice place to socialize. So we thought.”

Tucker says he saw Gay walk in and order a beer. He sat down and looked toward two friends giving each other a peck on the cheek.

“That just set him off,” says Tucker. “He stood up, went towards the door, and turned around. I could see the gunfire coming out of his gun, I didn’t know exactly at first what it was, but then I realized what had happened. I told everybody to get down, I kind of shoved this girl to the ground, and I didn’t realize I’d been shot until I reached behind my back and I had blood all over my hands.”

“There was blood everywhere, it was total chaos,” recalls Tucker, who tells me the bullet was lodged in his back for about a month before it could be removed.

“I was very paranoid at the time because I’d just gotten a promotion,” says Tucker. “It was a very interesting and heartbreaking time in my life.”

Tucker says the officer who arrested Gay informed him of Gay’s passing Wednesday night, coming as a wave of relief after Gay had appealed for geriatric release.

”I can say that Danny can rest in peace now because of what that man did to him and us. It was a total upending of my life and all these other people.”

The Virginia Department of Corrections said Ronald Gay died of natural causes last Saturday at a hospital. He had been serving his sentence at Deerfield Correctional Center.

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