PLEASANTVILLE, NJ – Players and spectators ran for cover Friday night when a gunman opened fire at a New Jersey high school football game, wounding two people.
One of the wounded was a young boy, who was airlifted to a children’s hospital in Philadelphia “with some serious injuries,” Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner said.
Panicked spectators and some of the players knocked down a fence in their haste to escape the confines of the field.
“It was mayhem, literally people coming in waves running away” said Jonathan Diego, who played for the Pleasantville team in 1984. Diego helped coach a Pleasantville youth football team involved in a game against an Atlantic City team in which three spectators were shot and wounded in 2005. All three survived.
That same Jokers team was practicing in 2015 when a spectator was shot, but survived.
“Unfortunately, around here it’s not as uncommon as it sounds,” Diego said.
He described a panicked scene as some children were separated from their parents, and other parents held babies and young children tight to keep them from being run over by fleeing spectators.
The shooting happened about 8:30 p.m. during the third quarter of a playoff game between the Camden Panthers and the Pleasantville Greyhounds, said Pleasantville Police Chief Sean Riggins.
Tyner, the prosecutor, told The Associated Press the shooting took place on the Pleasantville side of the bleachers. No one had been arrested as of late Friday, and authorities were investigating whether more than one shooter might have been involved.
Authorities did not identify shooting victims nor release information on their conditions other than to say both were alive several hours after the shooting.
Diego said his friend, a retired paramedic, gave first aid to a young boy who had suffered a gunshot wound to the neck.
“He applied pressure to the little boy’s wounds on his neck, trying to slow down the bleeding until the ambulance could come up,” Diego said.
The boy was flown by helicopter to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The adult shooting victim was taken to AtlanticCare Regional Medical Center in nearby Atlantic City.
A statement from the Camden City School District said no Camden High School students “were injured or otherwise harmed.”
Pleasantville is about seven miles (11 kilometers) west of Atlantic City. Its high school team won its first division title in 43 years this season, and the stands were packed.
Videos obtained by The Associated Press show people hitting the ground, running from the bleachers and jumping over chain-link fences as gunfire sounds. At least six gunshots are audible in a video from Jersey Sports Zone, which also shows players stop mid-play, look at the stands and then turn and run.
“I heard the gunshots,” Pleasantville football player Ernest Howard, 17, said in a Twitter clip posted by a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter. “We started all running for this fence and tried to run inside the gym.”
In a press conference, Tyner referenced a Thursday shooting at a Southern California high school, where a 16-year-old boy killed two students and wounded three others. The shooter died Friday.
“This is a tragic situation, to say the least, on the heels of what just happened in Santa Clarita, California,” Tyner said. “It has hit home here in Pleasantville, New Jersey, and it is very disturbing, to say the least.”
This story has been corrected to report the name of the 17-year-old football player quoted is Ernest Howard, not Ernest Holland; that Pleasantville is west of Atlantic City, not southeast and that a witness’ first name is spelled Jonathan, not Johnathan.
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