This is an excerpt from Managing Sport Events.
Case Study: 911, What's your emergency?
You are sitting in the stands watching a high school football game and all of a sudden you hear pop-pop-pop, and you know it was gunfire. You pick up your phone and call 911. Not a call that anyone wants to make, especially from a high school football game. I mean, it is high school football! Over the past few months, this nightmare has become a reality for more than a dozen schools in several states, and it is becoming far too frequent a headline story. Below are just a few of the incidents that have happened during August and September 2018 either at a game, on campus, or near a school while a football game was underway.
August 18, 2018. Wellington, Florida. Dwyer High School vs. Palm Beach Central High School. Two persons shot.
During the fourth quarter of the Dwyer-Palm Beach Central game, chaos broke out as fans ran for cover when four shots were fired from the end of the bleachers where the band sits. As the investigation ensued, it became apparent to authorities that this was a targeted shooting rather than a school shooting, even though it occurred on school grounds.
August 23, 2018. Montgomery, Alabama. GW Carver vs. Jeff Davis, playing at Alabama State University. Shots fired in stands; no injuries.
During the fourth quarter, multiple gunshots were fired from a walkway on the west side of the stadium. Violence is not new to the opening night football games hosted at ASU stadium. The previous year several students were escorted out of the stadium and off the campus for fighting.
August 24, 2018. Jacksonville, Florida. Lee High School vs. Raines High School. Shots fired; two injured, one dead.
It was a typical hot August Friday night in Florida. An estimated 4,000 fans made their way to Raines High School football stadium in Jacksonville, Florida, for the game against Lee High School. From all indications, it was a good night; minor skirmishes in the stands, but when the game was over the fans exited the stands and headed home. Around 10 p.m., approximately 15 minutes after the game was over, shots were fired, two people were injured and one was pronounced dead at the scene. This was a shocking end to what was considered a successful football event. Superintendent Diana Green commented “it was a great game; it is shocking, I was actually at the game.”
August 24, 2018. Fairfield, California. JV football game at Armijo High School. Shots fired; one person dead, one critically injured.
ABC News reported that the shooting took place just outside Armijo High School, where a junior varsity football game was being held. About 500 of the attendees were ushered into the gymnasium and the school was placed on lockdown during the search for two shooters, according to the Fairfield Police Department. One of the suspects made his way into the gymnasium with the fans and was subsequently arrested, while the other suspect was found and arrested a few blocks from the shooting.
August 24, 2018. Rockford, Illinois. Freeport High School vs. Auburn High School. Shots fired; no injuries.
Shots were fired near Auburn's Wyeth Stadium. Although the shooting took place in the parking lot outside the stadium, it was reported that this incident had no connection to the game.
September 7, 2018. Murphy, North Carolina. North Georgia vs. Murphy. Shots fired; game put on hold on account of a shooting at a nearby store.
A shooting in a parking lot of a store located near the stadium where the game was being played forced an end to the game and evacuation of the fans.
September 14, 2018. Everett, Washington. Kamiak High School vs. Mariner High School. Shots fired; no injuries.
Shortly after 911 was called for a fight in the parking lot during the Kamiak-Mariner football game, the PA announcer interrupted the game urging the fans to “hit the deck” after five or six shots were heard coming from the area of the reported fight. No injuries were reported from this incident.
Friday night lights are for cheering your home team, supporting the band, crowning a homecoming king and queen, and hanging out at the local burger joint after the game—all innocent pastimes surrounding high school football. But what happens when that innocence is rocked by gunfire? The innocence is lost, and the ritualistic pastimes now require safety measures that were once thought would never be needed in interscholastic sport. In much the same way as college and professional sports reacted after 9/11, this rash of violence has led interscholastic administrators to rethink their risk management plans and to consider heightened security tactics.
Event managers must constantly scan the environment for information, ideas, and potential issues that could influence their plans and expose a potential hazard for their event. You have studied the importance of risk management planning in this chapter. Now it is your turn to make some key decisions on how to handle a crisis like the ones listed above.
Football stadiums are sitting duck targets for violence. The size of the stadiums, even high school stadiums, presents challenges for administrators.
Case Study Application
- Create a list of security measures you could implement in subsequent games that would help ease the fears of fans attending games.
- For a few of these shootings the actual events had nothing to do with the game but only happened near the stadiums. Many of these were not classified as school shootings; rather, they were seen as community issues. You are responsible to those in attendance to keep them safe through any incident. What would be your plan of action (CMP) for an active shooter at or near your stadium? (Note: One of the shooters in an above incident was ushered into the gym along with the fans.)