Guitarist Shot After a Show Friday

Löwin’s Michael Sanders won’t be playing festival week after all

Michael Sanders, with wounded shoulder, in the hospital
Michael Sanders, with wounded shoulder, in the hospital (Courtesy of Michael Sanders)

Mid-afternoon Sunday finds Austin’s Michael Sanders calm and collected, hoisting a mug of hot tea with his left hand, while his right arm remains in a sling. Thirty-six hours earlier, a bullet tore through his shoulder.

This isn’t how any local musician imagines the week of South by Southwest starting. Sanders, lead guitarist for indie rock quartet Löwin, walked home alone from A Giant Dog’s Friday night performance at Hotel Vegas when three masked men – two armed with handguns, one with an AR-15 rifle – jumped out from some bushes near his house on Leona Street, pushed him up against a car, and stole his money and cell phone.

As the robbers hustled toward their car, Sanders began to walk in the same direction to his house. One of the men turned around and, without hesitation, fired his handgun at Sanders. The bullet caught him in the shoulder.

“It wasn’t as scary as it was matter-of-fact and surreal,” recalls Sanders of the moments after he was hit. “My first thought to myself was ‘Oh my god, he shot me.’ My second thought was realizing that it didn’t hurt as bad as I would have expected.”

Bleeding heavily and without a phone to call police, Sanders tried to alert two neighbors. One’s gate was locked, the other didn’t answer their door. He ran to his house and hit his security alarm, then returned to the house of his neighbor, who let him in and called 911.

As he rode in the back of an ambulance to Brackenridge Hospital where he was kept overnight, EMS workers told him that no arteries had been hit. Later he learned that the bullet – recovered from the radiator of his neighbor’s car – had fractured his humerus, but didn’t shatter it.

“As far as getting shot goes, it was a very clean shooting,” he offered on Sunday, counting his blessings that he hadn’t been hit in the head or torso, and admitting that he probably should’ve laid on the ground until the robbers were out of sight. “I’m fortunate … because they were trying to kill me.”

The Austin Police Department didn’t respond to a message left Sunday morning requesting details on the investigation. As far as Sanders knows, APD hasn’t made any arrests. He hadn’t been able to provide police with any specifics on the assailants’ vehicle, and they ditched his phone as to not be traced. Last night, he saw officers patrolling the area where the robbery had taken place.

Given the timing of the incident and the location in a neighborhood near the Eastside entertainment district that’s popular for short-term rentals during SXSW, Sanders believes the robbers were preying on people coming home from concerts.

Löwin has three shows on the books for this coming week, but Sanders isn’t likely to perform with his band, since he has limited range of motion in his picking arm. Bummer. Considering Friday’s potentially deadly encounter, it’s perhaps the least of all evils.

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