- Cullman, Alabama

May 2, 2013

Man charged in Tuscaloosa bar shooting asks for death penalty

Associated Press

TUSCALOOSA — A man accused of injuring 18 people in a shooting at a Tuscaloosa bar says he wants the death penalty.

Nathan Wilkins, 45, made the request in a letter written to a judge, The Tuscaloosa News reported ( ).

“Why send me to prison for life and support me with taxpayer money,” Nathan Van Wilkins wrote in a letter dated April 22 and entered into his court file Tuesday.

“That used to make me so mad when I wasn’t in jail and paying taxes and had to support people like that,” he wrote.

Wilkins says he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

“I cannot bear to be away from my family especially my grandkids for life,” he wrote to the judge. “I would like to tell all involved I am sorry. I wish this incident would bring attention to prescription sleeping pills, especially Ambien, before it ruins someone else’s life! I want to say I’m sorry to everyone involved again.”

Wilkins has also written that he did not remember the events of the night of the shootings. He was placed on suicide watch at the jail.

Wilkins is jailed on 19 counts of attempted murder, which isn’t eligible for the death penalty under Alabama law. He faces a total of 68 charges in relation to the events of July 16 and July 17.

Authorities say Wilkins opened fire with an assault-style rifle at the Copper Top bar in Tuscaloosa last July.  Police said he stood on the patio of the bar for a few minutes before firing at least 11 shots that injured 17 people inside the bar.

He is also accused of shooting another man at a home in Northport about an hour earlier and of setting fire to his former workplace in Brookwood and a co-worker’s home in Northport. He turned himself in at a Jasper FedEx store on July 17.

Wilkins’ trial is set for Monday, but it could be delayed.