GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Young athletes and their families were shaken up after a fight that people mistook for a shooting at North Carolina A&T State University on Tuesday.
It was a track and field competition that turned into chaos for the people who traveled to Greensboro from all over the country to compete in the AAU Junior Olympic Games.
People first thought there was an active shooter on campus. That was not the case, but it caused panic and sent thousands trying to run out of the stadium at the same time.
More than 30 frantic parents and children called 911 as police said a fight took place during the AAU Track and Field Junior Olympics at Truist Stadium. People made those calls while running to safety, forcing NC A&T State University campus police to call for backup.
“This is university police at A&T State University,” said an officer to 911 dispatch. “We’ve had a couple of fights break out. Pushing and shoving due to the heat, and we’ve had a stampede of people leaving the stadium. So far from the interior, no shots fired…looked like a fight broke out at the souvenir tent and radiated out from there.”
While the fight went on under the bleachers, people said they heard a loud bang and took cover, assuming it was a gunshot. Some made a mad dash for the exit. Others hit the ground and hid.
“All the javelin throwers that were in the fourth flight started running to the left, and they just had us lay on the ground and hide in tents. Just told us not to move,” said Jaxon Talley, who traveled from Louisiana to compete.
Jaxon’s father Joshua told FOX8 the bang people heard was a starter gun, signaling the beginning of a race.
“When the track gun went off, everybody panicked and freaked out, and that’s when all the people came running,” Joshua said.
In all the commotion, first responders said several people were trampled, including an eight-year-old runner from California.
“She’s got her knees messed up,” the girl’s grandmother said. “Her leg over here is all messed up. How is she supposed to compete?”
Other athletes asked themselves that same question after the day’s events were quickly canceled.
“I think that a lot of people would be shaken up from it, so that could lead to like bad starts, bad running…nervousness increased,” said Bianca Evuleocha, who was supposed to run the 100-meter dash.
Those races are rescheduled to resume Wednesday morning.
Three people were taken to the hospital with minor injuries, but the emotional scars will take longer to heal.
“One of the scariest feelings,” said Arvonne De Marco, whose daughter was trampled. “When you’re sitting there, and you just see people start running, and you reach for your kid and say ‘come on,’ and the next thing you know, they’re not there by you.”
The track and field events are scheduled to run through Saturday. But some families and coaches said they’ve already booked flights home for their athletes.
They spent thousands of dollars to come here, but after the scare, they don’t want to risk taking their children back inside the stadium.