A teenager was charged for his role in a fight at the South Carolina State Fair on Saturday, before the crowd was panicked by unproven reports of gunfire, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department said.
A juvenile was arrested, Capt. Maria Yturria said in an interview with The State. But no connection has been made to the stampede of fair-goers who ran from the fair grounds after other kids were running around and saying there had been a shooting, according to the sheriff’s department.
“The fight happened before the melee,” Yturria said Monday.
The teen was charged with disorderly conduct, according to the sheriff’s department.
The South Carolina State Fair closed early Saturday night and some patrons suffered minor injuries after waves of fair-goers ran for the exits and with numerous people falling and some scaling fences to get away from the scene, The State reported.
“It caused mass chaos and significant safety issues for the public,” Major Harry Polis said of the incident that occurred at about 9:45-10 p.m.
Despite multiple witness claims of gunfire, the sheriff’s department said there is no evidence of a shooting.
“We searched and scoured the fair after the crowd had left, there was no shell casings, there was no indication that there had been an actual shooting,” Polis said Sunday. “There were no 911 calls to dispatch about gunfire, there was none. Nobody showed up to the hospital after leaving the fair with gunshot wounds, there is just no evidence to support this statement that there was gunfire at the fair. We would have known.”
The Columbia Police Department, which has jurisdiction in the area outside of the fair grounds, also said no shootings were reported in the area Saturday night.
“No calls came in about shootings or shots fired,” Lt. Michael Blair said in an interview with The State.
The incident caused a “disruption and ... anxiety for our patrons,” South Carolina State Fair general manager Nancy Smith said Sunday in a news release. “We will remain diligent in our efforts to maintain the highest customer safety standards that fair-goers have become accustomed to.”
That includes more sheriff’s deputies patrolling the fairgrounds.
Plain clothes deputies have been added to help at the state fair, with approximately 100 Richland County deputies working at the fairgrounds at any given time, Yturria said.
No incidents or arrests were reported at the state fair on Sunday, according to the sheriff’s department.
The sheriff’s department has been patrolling the fair “for many years, and we want people to know it is safe,” Yturria said. “We will make sure it is safe, and safe for people to come.”
The fair is celebrating its 150th year in operation. It opened last Wednesday and continues through Oct. 20.
The annual event is expected to operate under normal conditions and hours for the rest of its 2019 run, according to fair officials.
At the 2015 South Carolina State Fair, a 15-year-old was injured in a shooting after arguing with a 19-year-old, according to The State.
That shooting was the first at the fair since 2004, The State reported. Then, three teens were injured after someone fired into a crowd in what law enforcement, without elaborating, said was a gang-related incident. One of the teens, Robert Lee Morris Jr., died several days later. He was 14.
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