A shooting just outside the third base gate at Nationals ballpark in Washington, D.C., on Saturday night set off a chaotic scene, with spectators fleeing throughout the stadium and some even scrambling over railings onto the ballfield and taking cover inside the dugouts.
“Police said there were three victims: a woman who was found wounded outside the stadium and two others who showed up at a hospital a short time later and were taken into custody,” reports The Washington Post. While police wrote in a tweet about 10 p.m. that there was “no ongoing threat,” officials decided to postpone the game and clear the stadium.
Afterward, Ashan Benedict, executive assistant chief of police for D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department, said fans were never in danger.
“I just want to assure the public that at no time during this incident were individuals inside the stadium attending the game in any kind of danger. This was not an active shooter incident and it’s not being investigated as such. Everything took place outside the stadium,” he said.
But that came too late. After the shots rang out, ballpark officials “did not address the gunshots over the loudspeakers for at least five minutes, leading to ‘pandemonium,'” according to the New York Post.
“I saw the staff there like deer in the headlights,” attendee Jaime Varela told the paper. “They didn’t know what was going on, they didn’t know what to tell us.”
“Active shooter situation outside @Nationals Park tonight. Thankfully safe, but definitely a scary moment. Thank you @DCPoliceDept for keeping us safe,” Varela wrote on Twitter.
— Jaime A. Varela (@jvarela42) July 18, 2021
Fans scrambled as police sirens blared. Some fans close to the field couldn’t go up the stairs to the concourse, so they ran onto the field, climbing over railings. Others ducked down behind seats.
The New York Post reports:
Players could be seen running into the stands, including Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., who grabbed family members and brought them into the clubhouse, in video posted by Kevin Acee, the Padres reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Nationals pitcher Patrick Corbin was one of several people who fled for the concourse. Others rushed into bathrooms or suites, according to an NBC Washington photojournalist.
When ballpark officials finally addressed the commotion, they asked fans to shelter-in-place inside the stadium, according to Scott Fear, vice president for public safety and security for the Washington Nationals, CNN reported. “A message on the scoreboard shortly after the shooting told fans to remain inside the baseball park, but it was later updated to say it was safe for fans to leave the stadium.”
“We held shelter in place for approximately 10 to 15 minutes. At that time we said fans were allowed, not that they had to, but they were allowed to exit through Center Field Gates and Right Field Gates on the other side of the stadium, because MPD had let me know that it was safe enough that they could go outside, out of the gate that way,” Fear said.
The postponed game will resume at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
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