PICKERINGTON, OH (WCMH) – A Fourth of July Celebration turned into mass chaos on Tuesday night. Crowds waiting for the annual fireworks show dispersed in a panic after reports of an active shooter on site.
Police say several juveniles induced panic by yelling, screaming and telling others to run for no reason. Officers are still looking to identify the group of kids involved.
Tim Smart brought his girlfriend Sarah Dundar to see her first Pickerington firework show on Tuesday.
“Before we pulled up I was like, ‘You’re in for a treat!’ and little did I know that would happen,” he said.
Just a few minutes after they sat down on a small hill at Victory Park, people started panicking.
“It was probably like a hundred people running and when they started screaming we kind of realized that something was not right,” said Dundar.
“Is this a shooting? Is it a bomb? Is this a terrorist attack?” said Smart. “All I knew is that we needed to get as far away as possible.”
They grabbed his young niece’s hand and ran through Olde Pickerington.
“The scary part was losing her or her falling behind, so we tried to make sure we had her,” said Dundar.
She said she even heard rumors that someone got shot and died. Now, she’s hoping to move past this terrifying ordeal.
“For next year, just working through that and trying to not be afraid of crowd like this again,” said Dundar.
But, it was a traumatizing event for many families.
“It was like a terrorist event happened to them,” said Pickerington Police Commander Tod Cheney. “They thought something like that was happening.”
Cheney said they were lucky no one was seriously hurt.
“We did have several children knocked down, scrapes, bruises, things like that,” he said.
Cheney said although this was a hoax, it’s a reminder to families to have an exit plan when you’re at a public event and to be aware of your surroundings.
“Getting out of there, yes. We recommend everybody gets out of there, but try to do that in an orderly fashion, the best you can. We know it’s hard to do,” he said.
He also reminds the public to be careful what you post online. Cheney said false reports of the shooting started pouring into their dispatch center, which tied up their phone lines.
“People were posting, ‘Active shooter at the fireworks’, we even saw some postings that said, ‘One person shot, one person dead,” he said. “Please, before you go ahead and post something on social media, that you verify what’s going on.”