40 people were sheltered at Lynfred Winery during Highland Park mass shooting
Lynfred Winery's Matt Phillips saw the Fourth of July parade as an opportunity to welcome "new faces" into the tasting room and serve mimosas when he opened the doors to the new Highland Park location on St. Johns Avenue at 10 a.m. that fateful day.
Just 14 minutes later, he was sheltering nearly 40 people who ran for cover when an active shooter, armed with a semi-automatic rifle, opened fire on the parade from a rooftop just over a block away.
Seven people were killed and three dozen were wounded when the assailant fired more than 80 rounds from his perch at the intersection of Central Avenue and Second Street.
At first, Phillips, who serves as director of tasting room operations, thought the sound of the shots being fired were coming from a drill team or from fireworks, but his partner, who was standing in the doorway, stated that it sounded like gunshots.
"Shortly after the parade started, that's when everything happened, and people started running down Central toward St. Johns, and that's when it became evident that it was an active-shooter situation," Phillips said.
"People started coming into the facility, and either ran directly through the back door out into the alley behind us, or started to find places to hide within the building."
Paradegoers hid in the bathrooms, the basement, a storage room, the office and in the tasting room, away from the windows, Phillips said.
"It became a main spot for families and other paradegoers just finding places to hide and wait for more information," Phillips said.
Once everyone was inside and the door was locked, that's when the adrenaline kicked in, Phillips said. He just wanted to make sure everyone was safe and calm.
"It was more kind of disbelief the first portion of it, and waiting to get updates. Phillips said. "Once the news reports came out, we got a little more of a picture of what was going on."
Phillips said it was not known if it was one or multiple shooters, that so much was unknown, and it was definitely scary.
"The fear started to slip away and it just kind of became ... you're just on the verge of tears the entire time. I'm just thinking, you know, a 'simple, pleasant day' and just the horror that transpired," Phillips said. "And looking around the room at all these new faces, and a lot of them being these small children and the elderly, and it was just heartbreaking."
He said by 2 p.m., police "SWAT teams" started doing storefront checks, swept the building and took statements from some of the paradegoers. Finally, everyone was able to leave.
People came by the next day and expressed gratitude toward Phillips for being open and for offering them a safe place to hide, and one family retrieved a stroller that was left behind.
"In those moments, I get a little choked up about it," Phillips said. 'It was nice to see those faces again and sort of connect with everybody."
He has received thank-you cards and messages, and more people have stopped by the store to say "thank you."
"It's been overwhelming," Phillips said. "The community has been so beyond incredible through all of this."