By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
@Tim_Linafelt on Twitter
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Derrick Mitchell feels blessed.
A junior defensive tackle on the Florida State football team, Mitchell was on the first floor of FSU’s Strozier Library early Thursday morning when a man with a gun opened fire and wounded three people.
Mitchell had just finished a group project for a sports management class and was ready to head home. But as he made his way toward the library’s exit, Mitchell said he felt an urge to turn around and gather the rest of his group.
“I was leaving because it was midnight and I had practice the next day,” Mitchell said. “Something told me to turn around and wait on the other group members and walk out with them together.
“Thank God I waited those extra minutes because I probably would have been right there in the line of fire. … I definitely felt blessed.”
Mitchell didn’t see the gunshots, but he heard them.
He thought at first that maybe a bookshelf had fallen over. But Mitchell realized something had gone wrong when he encountered Nathan Scott, a library employee who had been shot in the leg.
Scott was released from Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare on Saturday.
“People started acting weird, so I’m backing up,” Mitchell said. “Then (Scott) lays down on the ground and gets on the phone and says, ‘Yeah, I just got shot.’ That’s when people started panicking.
“I was probably 10 feet from where he laid down at.”
Florida State police responded in rapid fashion and, within minutes, the gunman had been killed.
Mitchell and his fellow students, though, still had a long night ahead. He had arrived at the library at 8 p.m., and didn’t get home until after 5 a.m., when he made a call to his father, Derrick Mitchell Sr.
Mitchell Sr. is a former FSU basketball player who now serves as a lieutenant in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
“He kind of explained how (the aftermath) was going to go,” Mitchell said. “He explained the procedure, if I had ran into the gunman, what I should’ve done. He took me through the whole process.”
After about an hour of calls and text messages to let friends and family know he was OK, Mitchell finally got some sleep.
He participated in practice on Thursday afternoon then made three tackles in FSU’s 20-17 win over Boston College on Saturday.
“When something goes wrong, I like being around the team,” Mitchell said. “This is a strong family atmosphere and brotherhood.”
The Seminoles wore ribbon decals on the backs of their helmets Saturday and, before the game, FSU president John Thrasher delivered a video message asking fans to keep the victims and their families in their thoughts and prayers.
“This tragedy has touched all of us in the FSU community,” Thrasher said. “And our hearts especially hurt for the hundreds of students who were at Strozier Library when this senseless incident took place.”
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher spoke after the game about the role of sports in the wake of such harrowing life experiences.
“A game is nothing compared to what happened the other day, and again, our thoughts and prayers and everything about Florida State, our condolences go out to everyone,” Fisher said. “But again, I think … athletics has a way of starting a healing process.”