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Soccer moms scatter as rifle pulled out during argument at youth tournament, witness reports


Vandana Ravikumar

The Charlotte Observer

Kids and parents scattered when a rifle was pulled out during an argument at a youth soccer tournament Saturday in Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City police confirmed that they received a call at around 2:30 p.m. about the altercation, which became physical between the two individuals involved before the gun was displayed, Fox 13 reported.

Once word began to spread that there was a gun at the soccer complex, chaos ensued, with children and families running away from the fields at the Regional Athletic Complex and trying to find places to hide. Some witnesses said that residents of nearby neighborhoods opened their doors for people to hide inside, KUTV reported.

“People had come across the field and they were screaming ‘active shooter, there’s a gun, run,’” Joni Edwards, a parent who was there to watch her son Kyle’s soccer game, told KUTV. “It just turned to total chaos right in the middle of the game.”

“Kids had scrapes and scratches from jumping the fence,” Ana Leyba, a mother who was attending the tournament, told Fox 13. “Our hearts and chest literally hurt from seeing our girls cry and scream ‘mom, run faster.’ I will never forget the look in their eyes.”

In other parts of the field, parents directed crying children and teens into cars to protect them, KUTV reported. Torrey Sasaki, a director of one of the soccer clubs, said he saw some people go to their cars and get their own guns.

No shots were fired, but witnesses said the fear and panic was still very real. There were numerous out-of-state teams in attendance, but police confirmed that the groups involved in the altercation were both associated with a Salt Lake City team, Fox 13 reported.

“This team of about 13-year-old girls was just sobbing and terrified; people were trying to find their kids or hadn’t brought their phones,” witness Erin Shepard told KSL News. “There were hundreds of people running, and the older people who couldn’t run were hiding behind cars.”

Other witnesses posted their thoughts on the incident on social media.

“I’ve been playing, reffing, and coaching soccer for 40 years and I’ve never seen anything this terrifying,” Jeremy Horton, a Salt Lake City sports journalist, said on Twitter. “Ended up with players in my car. And no police arrived for 30 minutes.”

Officials from the tournament said they were “disheartened” by the incident.

“Our priority is to provide a safe game-day environment, but the limits of our influence are clear when individuals choose anger over safety,” US Youth Soccer CEO Skip Gilbert said in a statement Saturday. “Sadly, we live in a world where a disagreement can lead to a tragedy.”

Salt Lake City police said in a statement that they responded to multiple 911 calls and that the fight was unrelated to soccer. No arrests have been made, but officers are continuing to investigate the incident and determine if “any criminal act occurred involving the weapon,” the statement said.

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