Classic car struck by a bullet in Springfield as driver and son headed to Birthplace of Route 66 Festival

Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 6:12 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 15, 2022 at 7:12 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The Birthplace of Route 66 Festival returned to Springfield over the weekend after a three-year absence because of the pandemic. Many people were happy to see the fun, joyous throwback to the good ‘ole days return as a reminder of simpler times.

But for one vintage car owner who attended the event, the trip back in time was disrupted by an intrusive, unwelcome reminder of the current state of affairs.

Kevin Schmidt, lives in Battlefield, Mo. He is a lifelong area resident working at Ken Owen Auto Service in Springfield. He and his 16-year-old son share a love for classic cars and the family’s 1956 Chevy Hot Rod.

“My son actually calls it his girlfriend,” Kevin said with a laugh.

On Saturday morning, Kevin and his son took the classic car to the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival and traveled north on Glenstone Avenue just past Grand Street (near some railroad tracks and a water tower) when Kevin heard a noise.

“I heard this loud bang and thought maybe my car had backfired,” Kevin recalled. “I realized pretty quick that wasn’t the case, and I had a car pass me in the center turn lane and a car pass me in the right lane. They came back together in front of me, and they were arguing. You could tell it looked like maybe a road rage incident.”

Not knowing what happened, Kevin continued to the festival, where an inspection of his pride and joy turned up a bullet hole in the back of his vintage car.

“After the adrenaline wore off, I admit I got a little shaky over it,” he said. “It’s not something that anybody wants to go through. Just thankful that God was watching over us because the bullet hole is about a foot-and-a-half below the top of the deck lid where it could have entered the car through the glass and may have hit one of us.”

Schmidt did file a police report, and the case is being investigated. But unfortunately, getting involved in gunfire at 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday on a major thoroughfare is part of a troubling trend in the city.

The latest available data on shots-fired calls shows that in the first six months of this year, Springfield has had 187 calls which would put it on pace for 374 for the entire year. That’s more than the 294 shots-fired calls in all of 2021, the 337 in 2020, and the 227 in 2019.

“The increase in road rage incidents with a firearm is increasing,” Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams pointed out in a recent interview. “And it’s something people really need to be aware of. If it happens to you, call 911, get a tag number if you can, and report it. We have too many people, because they have a gun with them, decide that’s how they’re going to settle a dispute. Nothing good can come from that.”

This year has seen incidents like a person getting shot in the leg inside their home from a passing car in north central Springfield and four people shot in their car near the corner of Kearney and Prospect.

This weekend there were several other shots-fired incidents, including one on Monday where occupants in a pick-up truck shot at a person at the Kum-and-Go at Division and National.

“With this busy intersection, I think we’re pretty lucky that we don’t have anybody injured,” said Springfield Police Lieutenant Mark Foos. “The last thing we want to see is someone hit by a stray bullet. But unfortunately, when people make decisions to commit these types of acts, they don’t think of others.”

“The atmosphere is more angry, more confrontational, and more dangerous,” Williams said of what law enforcement is facing when they travel the streets these days. “We are not the Springfield of 20 years ago or 30 years ago. We’re not the Springfield of 10 years ago. We’re not a small town. We’re a big city. But it doesn’t mean we need to be any less vigilant.”

“Well, it certainly isn’t the Springfield I grew up in,” Kevin Schmidt said. “I used to call it a big country town because while it was a city, it felt like the country to me. My dad worked at SMS (Southwest Missouri State), and I’d ride my bicycle from Republic Road all the way to SMS without thinking about it when I was 12-13 years old. I wouldn’t do that today or let my boy do it either. Back then, people would wave at you driving down the road. They don’t do that anymore.”

Now they shoot.

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