Shooting outside national park recalls scourge of gun violence
WASHINGTON – It took just seconds on Saturday night for America’s Pastime to mingle with one of America’s chronic ailments.
And those chaotic moments just before 9:30 p.m. in the nation’s capital, when baseball and gun violence got intertwined, did more than suspend the Washington Nationals-San Diego Padres game after a volley of gunfire in the air. he outside Nationals Park injured three people, including a woman who attended the game.
It certainly revealed the best of the fans who witnessed the game, the security staff who kept them calm as the shots rang out but the chaos was downplayed, and the Padres and Nationals players and coaches, who hosted strangers in the sanctuary of their dugout canoes and flags in the name of security.
Yet he also exposed, in a site meant to be a sanctuary for athletes and fans, the numbing effect decades of mass shootings and gun violence have had on athletes and fans.
“As you all know, it’s not just us,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said Sunday morning, hours after helping fans to safety and even in his office. « It’s happening everywhere. »
According to police and eyewitness reports, Saturday’s shooting was not a premeditated act and likely unrelated to the football game. DC Metro police said on Sunday that shots were fired from at least one vehicle at another – it is possible that an exchange of gunfire took place – and they are looking for a car involved in the shooting. after picking up another one.
The shooting came a day after the District of Columbia was rocked by the murder of a 6-year-old girl, Nyiah Courtney, who was shot along with five adults in what police described as a drive-by shooting in the south. -is from DC.
“Our city is heartbroken,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Saturday morning.
It was the 102nd homicide in the district this year, at the same rate as the same date in 2020, according to MPD data. The complex and deeply rooted causes of these murders cannot be so easily summarized, although the displacement of residents in several quadrants of the city has increased, the homicide rate has also increased.
On Saturday night, that violence landed at the gates of Nationals Park, a state-funded gem whose surroundings have seen a development boon – urban renewal for some, gentrification and displacement for others.
The scourge of violence does not often strike Nationals or many of their fans who come to the District from the suburbs of Maryland or Virginia. Martinez, who lives near the stadium and has been leading the national championships since 2018, had to pull himself together as he defended his adopted home.
“You know,” he said, stopping, “I love this city. This city is my home. It can get crazy. We all know that. And we all want to feel safe.
“I can tell you that inside this stadium I feel more secure than ever. I really do. «
Martinez’s actions, players and fans reflect generations who grew up in a post-Columbine world.
« Just human beings »
In the minutes between the shots and the public announcement noting their origin and that sheltering in the stadium was the safest, the knee-jerk reaction from fans and players alike was fairly concise in a society in which shooting practice mass for kindergarten children are the norm.
Some fans sprinted for the exit of the central field. Others immediately fell back to their seats. Those in the sanctuary of stadium club and restaurant seats even knocked over tables to create safer shelters.
For the players, many with their families in the stands, it was a simple reflex: unite and protect.
“The gunshots happened in a second; you heard constant shots, ”said Padres outfielder Wil Myers on Sunday. “From where we were, we didn’t hear any screams from the fans. It took a little while to realize that it was gunshots.
“If we had heard screams, we would all have known what was going on. At this point, you are trying to hear what people are saying and doing your legwork to get people to safety in this case. «
The Padres’ families were seated behind their shelter at third base and therefore a decent distance from the sound of gunfire, which echoed near the entrance to third base of the stadium. So Myers, whose parents attended the game after leaving their home in North Carolina, shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and third baseman Manny Machado made their way to the stands to help.
Family, fans, strangers – it didn’t matter.
“The situation changed immediately,” Tatis said on Sunday. “There are no more players or fans. I have the impression that everyone is just people.
“Just human beings over there. You just have to be safe.
All things considered – the predicted crowd of 33,232, the chaos of gunfire, the initial confusion of its origin – the situation quickly calmed down. Martinez credited MLB security chief Brian Sedgwick with facilitating the transfer of fans from stands to dugouts; he says there are protocols in place for such an incident, but these can quickly be lost in the haze of the event.
“You don’t even think it’s going to happen, but when it does, it’s definitely a different situation,” he says. “You have 30,000 fans. You have security guards. You have salespeople. Tons of people out there that you worry about.
“Yesterday, everyone in this stadium, security, handled it very well. I thank the fans for doing their best to stay calm. They were all in our canoe like sardines, and I wanted to make sure they were safe and comfortable and they knew we mattered.
» That’s it. I just wanted everyone to be safe.
« It can happen anywhere »
Fans would agree. They were strong for the resumption of Saturday’s game and scheduled regular morning, knowing security would be tighter – but received unsolicited advice nonetheless.
“My wife said, be careful, be aware of your surroundings,” says DC resident David Adesnik, who brought his 6-year-old son to the game. “It’s something you might hear walking in a deserted place late at night, not a baseball stadium. «
Bethesda resident Kate Offutt spent part of the morning browsing Facebook and noting the surreal nature of Saturday’s events, which didn’t deter her and her friend from attending Sunday.
« If anything, I thought today would be safer than any day, even though my husband gave some advice – hide and cover, » said Liz, a Bethesda Nationals fan. who refused to give his last name. “If it’s a mass shooting, it could happen at the mall, at Wal-Mart, anywhere. It’s a matter of luck.
She and Offutt both lived through the Beltway Sniper saga that crippled the Capital Region in 2002. It happened three years after the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado, a harbinger of two decades of shootings. massive. According to a Washington Post database that has tracked 189 mass shootings since 1966, 43 or 25% have taken place since 2016.
The deadliest shootings have tangentially affected baseball. The 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootout in Florida prompted Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo to return to his alma mater for a vigil. Las Vegas stars Kris Bryant and Bryce Harper cut a public service announcement during their 2017 playoff series, which fell after a gunman perched in the Mandalay Bay compound murdered 59 people during the ‘a country music festival on the Strip.
Saturday’s shooting, while nowhere near as tragic, was enough to disrupt the daily rhythms of a sport and hobby typically impervious to such tragedies. It was a sobering reminder that there is little shelter from the scourge.
“I hope the fans come back and understand that, hey, this is happening everywhere,” Martinez said. “Unfortunately, it’s scary when that happens. It’s close to us.