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False active shooter report leads to panic inside California’s Great America

It gives me no pleasure to write a piece about this, but I think it IS important to see what happens when societal paranoia meets the reality of our society.

On Saturday night, reports began to circulate online of a group of disruptive teenagers inside California’s Great America. As part of a strong-arm robbery attempt inside the park, someone began shouting “SHOOTER,” inciting mass panic among the attendees.

Guests began running for any exit they could find, including making their own by scaling large, barbed wire fences in backstage areas.

Police scanner traffic reported a few some minor to moderate injures, consistent with trampling crowds, but that no shooting had occurred. There was no word if the group responsible for the false shooting reports were taken into custody.

The park put out a statement about 30 minutes after police arrived, saying:

They concluded with, “The safety of our guests and associates is our highest priority.”

Now, growing up at this park, it is beyond heartbreaking to watch a place I had so much fun in, turn into a place of pure, unadulterated terror. In an era where we drill our students about mass shooters in school, is it much of a stretch to see theme / amusement parks as a soft target? Sadly, no.

That being said, the security to get into theme / amusement parks like Great America is very good. I’ve never felt unsafe at a park event, except for what no security checkpoint can detect: bad actors. A person or group of people who are determined to hurt others in order to make themselves feel better.

The physical damage to the park is repairable. However, the reputation damage to the park and mental damage to those who were in attendance (both guests and employees) is not as easily repaired.

Are there are lessons to be learned here? Absolutely. I imagine parks across the country will be taking a look at their emergency and crisis plans to ensure this never happens at their parks.

But truth be told, we (as a nation) cannot allow ourselves to be so paranoid – and yet, here we are. That being said, after seeing all of these videos over and over, if I were placed in their shoes, I ask myself, “What would I do?”

P/C: California’s Great America.

I finish this op / ed with a question for all of us: Is this the type of country we want to live in? A country in which one bad actor can incite a mass panic, over the generally unfounded fear of someone gunning us down?

Because as much as we want this to be an isolated incident – barring radical change in our society – I’m fearful that this sort of occurrence is only the tip of the iceberg.


One response

  1. Ross Almazan

    I was there Sat. night. Despite the fact there was no real active shooter…when it was going down, it was scary. In a moment we went from just enjoying ourselves walking thru the park, to mass panic and hysteria …. Its absoutely true that in this world we live in, that it only took a second for me to ‘know’ the ONLY REASON people are running with fear is there is someone with a gun (even if that wasn’t what was truly happenng.) It didnt help that someone posted and spread rumors on the Inside CGA page a few weeks ago about shooting threats at CGA for Haunt. It was truly terrifying and all I could think of was that this is really happening…in the park that I love and have been coming to since it opened in 1976, I was 9 years old . I just kept trying to run and yell out to my partner and friend and trying to keep us together…it only takes an instant to lose each other in a panicked crowd that size at night. I was really scared. Its sad, that in this world we live in…all it takes is a handful of idiots, social media, in a place with thousands of people all to familiar with the threat of the fact that a mass shooting can happen anywhere at anytime, to be the perfect storm for what happened. At the same time its fascinating, how once the flash point happened, the panic and fear traveled through the entire park like a wildfire…there was no one in the park that wasnt aware of what was going on. Cell phone frantic calls and social media amplified the situation. Anyway, those are my thoughts. The night was ruined pretty much…and its just sad all the way around…

    October 29, 2019 at 12:33 am