MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A night of fun at the Delta Fair turned to terror and chaos Saturday night when investigators and fair officials say someone fired shots in the midway.
Cell phone video shows frantic families running from an exit and through the Agricenter building after the shots were fired around 9:30 p.m.
Investigators said they don’t know how many shots were fired, but photos from visitors show at least seven evidence markers where shell casings were found.
On social media Saturday, fair officials initially blamed fireworks set off by “troublemakers,” but that post was later edited after investigators confirmed shots were fired. The edited post said there was a “singular incident… which resulted in no injuries.”
The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said Saturday night that no one was shot on the grounds or hurt. However, fair officials said Sunday that there were some injuries, contradicting Saturday’s edited Facebook post.
“We had some injuries last night after the incident,” Matt Snyder, director of safety and emergency services, said. “We’re still trying to determine whether they were part of that or not.”
Snyder said Sunday that the initial post about fireworks was referencing a second incident that occurred before the shots were fired, but said the fireworks weren’t set off in the midway as the original Facebook post said.
“We had two kids that shot some fireworks off in the building, and our person that reported that thought that the incident was — that happened down there — was the same incident, and it was not. It was two separate incidents.” he said.
Both Facebook posts have since been deleted.
Champ Lewis was in the Agricenter when the shots were fired.
“There were women and children running all over the place just trying to figure out which was the best exit to go out of… And they were just going ballistic,” he said. “I saw whole families, kind of very tight-knit, walking out with their heads held down, tears in their eyes.”
Kristin Thorne and her 8- and 13-year-old nieces were on a ride, split between two different carts, when they heard the shots.
“We were all screaming, ‘Get us off this ride!’ because people were jumping fences, running towards the exit, and we were ready to get off and go too,” Thorne said.
“I looked at the people in front of me on the ride and they were screaming, crying — ’cause they were little girls — and then they ducked down and I thought, I should do that, too, just to be safe in case anything flew around me.” Jazmin Rix, 13, said.
Snyder said the fair has security protocols in place to protect people, like checking every bag and wanding visitors at random, but people we spoke to Sunday said they didn’t see that.
“They weren’t checking bags, they weren’t checking anything,” Thorne said. “We just went straight on in.”
Snyder said the fair was checking into those claims, and that fair officials have already ordered more wands and are willing to make necessary security changes to keep people safe in the future.
“Everything right now is open to being changed,” he said. “We’re looking at all aspects of our security and safety protocols.”
The fair offered free admission from noon to four Sunday, but that didn’t cover the cost of wristbands to get on rides. Snyder said fair officials will not give refunds to those who attended Saturday night.