Sheriff: No confirmation of gunshots at Curry County Fair
Last updated 8/20/2022 at 11:09am
CLOVIS — Maureen Bell was in a show barn at the Curry County Fair on Wednesday night, watching area youth with their lambs.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been more afraid in my life,” she said. “You hear someone say ‘live shooter’ and see everyone running … total chaos ensues.
“I saw parents screaming for their children, kids screaming for their parents, spouses screaming for spouses …”
Police said they found no evidence of gunshots at the fair that night, but mayhem followed reports of an active shooter on the south side of the Midway.
Witnesses said hundreds of fairgoers began scrambling for exits about 8:50 p.m., leaving personal belongings behind, after what police believe was a fight among teenagers that did not involve gunfire.
“Law enforcement was notified by people in the (carnival) Midway that shots were being fired,” Curry County Sheriff Wesley Waller told The News late Wednesday night. “We ran to the area ... but so far we have not found anybody able to tell us they saw anybody shooting or that they heard shots. We also do not have anybody injured from gunfire.”
Waller said there were some minor injuries resulting from the incident, but “those were primarily from people falling down as they were running.”
Waller said one man was arrested for carrying a concealed firearm without a license, but that man was not suspected of firing his weapon.
“He indicated he had removed the firearm (from a bag) when he heard people yelling that somebody had a gun,” Waller said.
As police swarmed the fairgrounds, Bell said the scene inside the show barn was “absolutely frightening.”
“Our youth showing (lambs) scrambled out of the arena, but not one of them left their animals. I’m not saying they weren’t scared to death, because they were – we all were – but they were so brave.”
Clovis’ Emily Cowart was on the Midway waiting her turn for a ride when she heard someone shout, “Shots were fired!” She said those around her began pushing, running and jumping over fences in search of safety.
She heard one teenager shout “Tornado,” adding to the confusion.
Sammantha Lekovich said she was on her way to the food court with family when they “saw a bunch of people running.” The crowd was “extremely panicked,” she said, “yelling that they heard gunshots, that there was a shooter.
“We did ask one of the fire marshals and he just said he didn’t know but it would be best if ‘you get out of here.’ So we went to our car.
“But we didn’t hear gunshots. My father-in-law is retired Navy; he knows what a gunshot sounds like,” she said.
The sheriff said in a news release Thursday that “a verbal and physical conflict occurred between two groups. During the altercation, one or more firearms were displayed. However there is no evidence to suggest that shots were fired.”
No one had been arrested as of Friday in connection with the brawl that apparently started the panic.
KC Messick, who manages the Curry County Events Center and Fairgrounds, also said there was a fight and someone saw a gun but that no shots were fired. Messick said the fairgrounds did not close though multiple people left during the confusion.
Messick and other Events Center workers said parents were attempting to locate children who scattered when they heard reports of gunfire.
Grant McGee of The News contributed to this report.