A closer look at the response to gunshots in the park

By JASON PATTERSON,

Gunshots are the last thing anyone expects to hear during a youth baseball game, but that’s the terrifying experience many Yazooans shared Thursday at our largest local park.

My 11-year-old son was walking through the same parking lot where the shots were fired as it happened. His game was starting after the game that was in progress, and he had just arrived with his coach and some teammates after batting practice.

This was a terrible situation, and everything that can be done to prevent something like this from happening again needs to be done.

But we also need to take a clear look at what happened, and not allow the fear and uncertainty that followed the incident cloud our thinking when it comes to deciding how to respond.

There has been much criticism of the response from law enforcement. I believe that much of that criticism is misguided, but I can understand where some of it is coming from based on what people on the scene were seeing.

The two main criticisms that I’ve heard are that the police were unacceptably slow to respond to the incident and that calls to 911 and the police station were going unanswered.

Let’s take a closer look at those two issues:

Police Response

I didn’t time it, but it probably was over 20 minutes before an officer was on the scene at the park.

That wasn’t because they weren’t answering the call, however. The vehicle occupied by the suspected shooter sped away from the park immediately after the shots had been fired. The officers on duty located that vehicle and arrested one suspect, although another escaped on foot.

In other words, they responded to the threat.

They were aware that no one was injured at the park, and there was no evidence that any threat still existed at the park.

It would have provided comfort to everyone at the park for an officer to be present, but unfortunately our police department is understaffed, the available officers were responding to the threat first.

Captain Jay Winstead came to the park and remained there until the games were over. Security will be present at the rest of the games this season.

Unanswered 911 Calls

Many people were frustrated because their calls to 911 or to the police station went unanswered.

There is a simple reason for this. So many calls were coming in at once related to the same incident that it was impossible to answer them all. Almost everyone has a cell phone these days, and many of the park patrons – even some children – were calling 911 at the same time.

Fortunately the calls that did get through gave dispatchers good descriptions of the shooter’s vehicle.

What happened Thursday was terrible, and it’s a blessing that no one got hurt, but under the circumstances the response was good. My family plans to return to the park this week just like we have every week this season.

What matters most now is how to prevent something like this from happening again. Hopefully the first step will be catching the person responsible and prosecuting that individual to the fullest extent of the law.