AUSTIN – A family-friendly theater event in Columbus Park Thursday night ended in chaos after someone fired shots while performers were on stage.
Police said the shooting happened around 6:45 p.m., just 15 minutes after Shakespeare performed at the Parks Show in Columbus Park, 500 S. Central Ave.
Witnesses saw families turning a blind eye and lying on the grass to avoid being shot at while other people in the crowd ran from the stadium where the shooting began.
Police said no one was hurt, but a parked car was shot.
The free event saw musicians, actors, and dancers perform songs playing folk scenes from William Shakespeare’s plays, part of a series of parks pop-up events from Chicago’s Shakespeare Theater.
Nicole Miano, who brought her two children to enjoy the park on a warm summer night, said the shooting started only three songs at the event.
“They looked to me like firecrackers. Honestly, I was in shock.” “People were running, and there was a lot of commotion. My friend said, ‘Get down, get down.'”
Miano and her children were watching Shakespeare’s performance from behind the audience near the stadium when filming began. She said that when she realized what was happening, her children lay down to protect them from the shooting.
Miyano said a boy with a gun ran nearby.
The incident made Miano fear for her children’s safety and how they will be affected as they grow up around the threat of gun violence. Miyano said no child should be subjected to “unnecessary trauma” or “become this because of where they live”.
“There are other events coming up at the parks that I have on the calendar,” she said… honestly thinking about whether I would take my kids to them. “I probably won’t take my kids to summer dances in Grant Park or Millennium Park because things happen there too.”
The rest of the show has been cancelled. A police spokesperson said officers arrived at the park shortly after, and they are investigating. No one has been arrested.
Keith Yerman was filming the performance when he started hearing a loud noise that he initially thought was fireworks. It wasn’t until he saw crowds of people scrambling for shelter and fleeing from the stadium that he realized that the fifteen bangs he heard were gunshots.
“Fear didn’t cross my mind right now. … It wasn’t really recorded until later. I’ve never experienced anything like this before, and I hope I never go back to it again,” said Yerman.
Yearman saw Shakespearean performers hiding behind equipment. He also saw the director waving his hands to stop the show and get the performers to safety.
He took a picture of one of the gunmen running in the park, said Yerman.
“I saw a group of people start running while the others were swaying and falling to the ground,” said Yerman. “A few people left their things, blankets, folding chairs, and things like that.”
Chris Henderson, executive director of Chicago’s Shakespeare Theater, said he canceled two shows scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Ogden Park and Bing Tom Park because of the incident. Chris said the organization is working with the Park District to plan for future events, and to provide support to company members.
“Everyone is safe and no one was injured, but we are aware and concerned about how worrisome and distressing this has been for everyone involved,” Chris said in a statement. “We remain committed to the neighbors and communities that have made Shakespeare at Parks Chicago so dear to our hearts for 11 years. We will be back, and we will continue to create together.”
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