Early Tuesday morning, trauma director and surgeon Barry Renz was at Kennestone Hospital, along with two other trauma surgeons who were about to change shifts. Normally, the center is staffed by one trauma surgeon at a time.
At that moment just six miles northwest, Cobb Police say Geddy Kramer, 19, of Acworth, a FedEx employee at a sorting facility in Kennesaw, opened fire on coworkers before taking his own life.
After hearing reports of the shooting, Renz said a fourth trauma surgeon rushed to the hospital where the wounded were taken for treatment.
Renz said victims of gunshot wounds often make their way to operating tables, especially when a handgun or rifle is used.
By Wednesday afternoon, Cobb Police would only confirm Kramer used a shotgun, but would not specify the gauge or if it was loaded with birdshot or buckshot.
Cobb Police spokesman Mike Bowman said the type of ammunition would only be released in the medical examiner’s findings.
Kramer also created four incendiary devices, which Bowman described as similar to Molotov cocktails, but none had been ignited.
According to Cobb Police reports, Kramer drove up to the security shack and shot the guard, Christopher Sparkman, 28, of Canton, before entering the warehouse where he shot five other people.
“Close range shotgun injuries are bad,” Renz said. “The first one was almost at point blank.”
Because the other victims were as far as 10 meters away, their wounds did not require operations, Renz said.
An injury report of victims
Cobb Police have only released Sparkman’s name, with no plans to provide the rest of the victims’ identities.
Renz, who has been with WellStar for three years after starting a trauma center in Gwinnett, said the trauma center was notified about incoming patients just after 6 a.m. Tuesday morning. By 6:26, the first victim had arrived.
By that point, Renz said there were 50 employees in the trauma bay waiting to assist, with 15 to 20 personnel paged by the command center in the emergency department.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Sparkman was in critical condition and Renz said he was rushed to the operating room within minutes of his arrival.
The second victim brought to Kennestone Hospital on Tuesday morning was a 52-year-old woman with pellets in her chest and abdomen. Renz said she was operated on within an hour of arrival for the potentially life-threatening injury.
A third victim, a 22-year-old man, was in the operating room several hours after the incident, Renz said, for wounds to his extremities. He was in stable condition at Kennestone Hospital by Wednesday afternoon.
Three other victims, a 42-year-old woman, a 19-year-old man and a 38-year-old man, have all been released from the hospital.
Renz said the trauma center holds dry runs to practice for multiple-causality scenarios.
“It was like we did it every day,” Renz said about Kennestone’s response to the shooting. “When there is a mass casualty, the place kind of comes alive.”
The investigation continues for community healing
Cobb Police say the case is still active and ongoing.
“We have victims of a crime that want answers,” Bowman said. “We are trying to give closure to the families.”
Detectives are still taking calls and tips “as to what transpired” in the 500,000-square-foot facility, Bowman said, but it will be some time until official police reports are released since the crime was isolated and is not a continuing threat.
Bowman confirmed the Kennesaw FedEx facility has hired off-duty police officers to provide added security for an undisclosed period of time.
“The workers feel more secure,” Bowman said about guards thoroughly checking employees’ badges Wednesday morning.
Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham, who represents the area, said she has not received any calls or comments to her office by residents about the “huge tragedy” and “sad story.”
She added the incident is “a sad reflection on society that we have to endure episodes like this.”
The shooting has created waves of support reaching outside of west Cobb and the county, most specifically with Sparkman’s ties to the Dallas-based West Ridge Church off Hiram-Acworth Highway. His wife, Jamie, is a singer at the church on Sunday mornings.
On Wednesday morning, the church’s receptionist said Sparkman’s family has asked the congregation to protect their privacy during the difficult time.
“The family appreciates all the prayers and concerns” the receptionist said.
On the church’s Facebook page, commenters left an outpouring of emotion with line after line of prayers, often from people who are not members of West Ridge and do not know Sparkman.
“I don’t know this family but as a child of God, they are my brother and sister in Christ. My prayer is for a MIRACLE of healing for his mind and his body because this is a traumatic scenario,” Dana Harris Carter of Cartersville posted.