FOREST CITY – The man who fired several shots outside Chili’s Bar and Grill, wounding one man, said he did so because he feared another man was grabbing a weapon from his vehicle.
Byron Forney visited the office of The Daily Courier Tuesday morning to explain his actions on Saturday night while at the restaurant. Forney said he was at Chili’s with two others when another party began harassing other patrons about not wearing a mask.
Police said the restaurant manager asked the party, which consisted of retired dentist Dr. Stephen Bell and his son, Wes, to leave. They left from inside but remained in the parking lot.
Forney said when he and his party exited Chili’s, Wes Bell continued to make aggressive remarks toward them. Forney, who is Black, said the comments were no longer about a mask, but about President Trump and race. He said Wes Bell, who is White, continued to badger him and his party in the parking lot. Then, Forney said, Wes gestured that he “had something for him” as he headed to his vehicle.
Fearful the gesture meant he had a gun, Forney, 45, said he then grabbed a handgun from his car and began shooting at the men.
“I’ve never shot anybody before in my life. I’ve never shot at anybody in my life,” Forney said. “I didn’t aim for the upper body – that’s why I aimed for the lower body.”
Forney said he fired four rounds at the most. One bullet struck Stephen Bell in the lower leg.
He disputes a witness’s account, who shared his comments anonymously with the Courier for Tuesday’s edition, that he reloaded his handgun after firing. Forney said the handgun is a Sarilmaz (SAR) 9mm semi-automatic and holds 16 rounds. He said there was no need to reload.
Forney said he was taken into custody by Forest City police for a couple of hours, but never charged with a crime.
Forest City police met with the District Attorney’s Office Monday.
Chief Christopher ReRoy said Tuesday District Attorney Ted Bell was going to research case law before rendering a decision about possible charges.
Forney expressed regret about the incident.
“I’d rather had fought him than had shot at them,” he said, adding that he mostly wanted to make sure his sister, who was with him at the time, was safe.
Forney said he later learned Wes Bell did not have a handgun in the car. He said there was a pole in Wes Bell’s vehicle.
He added that Wes Bell and his party appeared to be waiting for them to come outside where the argument resumed. Forney said the Bells had issues with other customers, too.
A message left for Dr. Bell on Monday was not returned as of Tuesday.