‘I always hear gunshots.’ Shop workers react to Fort Worth West 7th District shooting

You wouldn’t know anything had happened on Blesdoe Street if you saw it Friday afternoon.

The hot sun beat down on near-empty streets. Nearby construction whirred. People walked their dogs and popped into restaurants.

Just over 12 hours earlier, the area had been the site of pandemonium.

Wes Smith, a junior at TCU originally from Germantown, Tennessee, was fatally shot in the 3000 block of Blesdoe Street, police say. He died at a hospital after sustaining multiple gunshot wounds to his upper body.

Smith majored in finance and was a Kappa Sigma fraternity member. He was a member of the TCU football team in 2021.

The man suspected of shooting Smith, 21-year-old Matthew Purdy, faces a murder charge.

Crime in the West 7th District increased 15% in the first 10 months of 2022 compared to the same time frame in 2021, and public intoxication rose 8%, according to a city report.

The city has made attempts to address it. The Fort Worth City Council banned open containers in November 2022 in the district. Earlier that year a 17-year-old was accused of injuring two people when he shot into a crowd outside a bar.

Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker wasn’t immediately available to comment Friday afternoon on the city’s efforts to reduce crime in the area.

Recent TCU graduate Sarah Youngblood, who was picking up a drink from Amperstand, a Blesdoe coffee shop and bar, said it was sad that she wasn’t surprised something like this had happened.

Youngblood and her friends were at Kung Fu Saloon on Morton Street when the shooting occurred. They couldn’t even hear what was going on over the blaring music in the entertainment district.

Kaly Murphy, an Ampersand barista, said it was “nerve wracking” working in the area and knowing these types of events are a common. During the day, she said, everything is fine.

Past midnight is when it gets bad, said Murphy’s co-worker Tony Perez.

“I would definitely say, like if you’re going out on West 7th, it’s a safer to hang out, like, by like Shot Cellar,” Youngblood said, referencing the eastern part of the district, closer to Foch Street.

Perez, Murphy and Youngblood agreed police tend to cluster down on Foch Street than they do toward Blesdoe and University Avenue.

A spokesperson for the Fort Worth Police Department refuted the criticism, writing in an email that officers were close enough to the scene to hear the shots being fired and took the suspect into custody within minutes.

“The Fort Worth Police Department will continue to provide the 7th Street detail officers that work that area along with all the off-duty officers that are working in establishments in that area,” the spokesperson wrote.

Lunden Gabel lives at an apartment complex on Blesdoe and works as a bartender on the opposite side of West Seventh Street. She said her boyfriend was in the area when the shooting occurred. Helicopters hovered over the scene and around 40 police cars responded, Gabel said.

She’s lived in the area for around three years and said it’s changed.

“I always hear gunshots,” Gabel said, adding that crime has gone up. “There’s always cops down here. There’s always something. There’s always a fight or something.”

In the five years Sleepy Hollow tattoo shop has been at 3023 Blesdoe St., there have been shootings, stabbings and people getting hit by cars, said tattoo artist Jeramy Kitchens.

Generally, Kitchens said he and the staff feel pretty safe, but there used to be a bigger police presence.

“When we first opened, I mean, there was cops on bicycles,” Kitchens said. “There was cops on horses. There was cops walking.”

At the same time though, not much usually happens down at Sleepy Hollow’s end of the block. Saturday night there might be two or five people at the end of their parking lot, Kitchens said, but jump in the car and head down the block and you’ll find 300 people in the street.

“It’s not good down here necessarily, but I mean, anywhere you have, you know, 20-something-year-old dudes and alcohol, there’s always gonna be crap going on,” Kitchens said.

Miguel Gomez, who works at neighboring taco joint Maestro, said it was “a little ... scary” coming to work knowing about the crime in the area.

The taco shop used to be open until 3 a.m. but reduced its hours.

“It kind of felt a little dangerous,” Gomez said of the late nights, clarifying the hours changed more so because of slow business rather than crime.

Gomez said the shop has security, and no one has felt worried enough to the point where they couldn’t work.

“It’s just something that you keep in the back of your mind, really,” Gomez said.