‘Everybody ran’: Dad recounts panic of SantaCaliGon Days shooting as officials consider changes

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Hundreds scattered as bullets flew at the SantaCaliGon Days Festival in Independence on Sunday night.

Independence police are still searching for the suspect who wounded four people, including three 16-year-olds.

Screams and laughter filled the festival Monday, but Sunday night, those screams were terror and panic.

“It was just a pop, pop, pop,” said Richard Sparks, who was at the festival.

Sparks said a night out with his wife and kids turned into chaos.

“Everybody ran,” Sparks said. “Me and my 4-year-old got trampled over.”

He said that was just the beginning of the madness. Moments later, Sparks said there were more shots, and that’s when he went into dad mode.

“The only thing we had to block us was one of the steel garbage cans,” Sparks said. “So I automatically put them behind the trash cans.”

Independence police said two people were arguing when someone pulled a gun out of their backpack and fired about five to seven shots. They don’t know the age of the gunman.

“It makes me nervous,” said Officer Jack Taylor, a spokesperson for the department. “As a matter of fact, one of my kids was up here. Not last night, but they were up here at the festival, and it does make me a little concerned.”

Taylor said many teenagers were at the festival alone. He’s urging parents to stay with their child.

“Last night, we had this incident, and we had, for a brief time, a really hard time getting a hold of the parents of those juveniles because they weren’t on scene,” Taylor said.

And while the search continues for the male gunman, families like the Sparks are reconsidering a trip to next year’s festival.

Now the department is working with the city’s Chamber of Commerce to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

One of the department’s main concerns is the teenagers that are dropped off by parents that cause some of the problems.

Taylor said there are talks of a possible curfew for teenagers who are attending the festival and/or controlled access to the carnival area. He said unaccompanied minors could be restricted and no-weapon checkpoints could be a possibility, too.

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