As thousands watched the city of Monroe’s fireworks display late Monday, shots rang out nearby, police said.
No one was reported shot, and police hope the public will help identify the perpetrators.
Officers “were on scene within seconds of the initial calls being received” but were unable to find whoever fired the shots, police Chief Bryan Gilliard said in a Facebook post Tuesday.
There were no reports of injuries, Gilliard said.
Union County Communications received multiple calls of shots fired in the area of East Jefferson Street and North Church Street,near Belk Tonawanda Park where the city holds the annual festivities, the chief said.
“Last night, unfortunately, we experienced some unlawful and harmful behavior by a small fraction of folks in attendance,” according to Gilliard’s Facebook post.
An additional 50 police officers were on duty during the July 4 festivities, both uniformed and plain-clothed, the chief said.
“Even with the additional manpower, officers faced with multiple incidents around the fireworks festivities that required increased response from officers and increased wait times for non-priority calls to be addressed.”
In response to questions from The Charlotte Observer, city spokesman Pete Hovanec said the shots were fired near the end of the fireworks show.
Jordon Willard told WSOC what he heard between the bursts of fireworks across the railroad tracks wasn’t part of the show.
“We heard about six or seven consecutive gunshots,” he said. “And it seemed like there were bullets that were hitting, ricocheting off of either the tracks or containers on the tracks.”
A few thousand people were near where the shots were fired, Hovanec said.
“It is very hard to have an exact number as the crowd of people are positioned in the park as well as around the blocks surrounding the park to view the fireworks,” Hovanec said in an email.
Police aren’t 100% certain if those who fired the shots were part of the crowd, Hovanec said.
“There were many people there, and the shots were relatively close, but since we did not locate the suspects, we can’t say for sure,” he said.
Hovanec also said he couldn’t say if a “large panic with tons of people running” ensued, but those closest to the gunshots moved away quickly.
No officers were present where the shots were fired, he said.
The shooting in Monroe happened as the nation remains on edge from mass shootings.
A gunman firing from a rooftop killed at least seven people and wounded 47 at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, McClatchy News reported.
The U.S. has experienced over 300 mass shootings this year, as listed on GunViolenceArchive.org.
Police urge anyone with information about the Monroe incident to call the department at 704-282-4700; Union County Crime Stoppers at 704-283-5600; or anonymously by texting MONROEPD and the tip to 847411; and via the website tip411.com.