It was a Saturday afternoon in the park, the Florida sunshine barrelling down out of a cloudless sky. More than 150 kids flew around the grass, pinballing between two bounce houses and a pavilion. Organizers dubbed the occasion “Peace in the City,” an anti-violence back-to-school event in Titusville, a town on the Sunshine State’s Atlantic Coast 45-minutes east of Orlando.
Dwight Harvey, an adult who was DJing the party, had his cellphone trained on the festivities, live-streaming to his Facebook page as kids and their parents rifled through backpacks stuffed new school supplies.
Then the gunshots started. A dozen blasts. Laughter turning to screams. Parents frantically shouting names.
“Y’all just witnessed a live shootout,” Harvey said into the camera once the shots stopped, in a video posted by Florida Today. “All these kids in the bounce house back here and they started shooting.”
According to police, an unnamed shooter opened fire in the park crowded with schoolchildren. Remarkably, none of the kids were hit — thanks to an armed bystander who shot the gunman as he was trying to flee.
“We are extremely grateful that nobody else was injured in this incident,” Titusville Police Deputy Chief Todd Hutchinson said in a statement. “This suspect opened fire at a crowded public park, this could have been so much worse.”
The shooter suffered life-threatening injuries and was airlifted from the scene to a hospital, according to police. But the situation last weekend — a seemingly safe space shattered by a spray of bullets — left both parents and kids shaken.
“There were kids in the path of those bullets. Thank God none of the kids got hit,” Harvey told reporters after the attack. “To have this happen at an event for the kids, at the ‘Peace in the City’ rally, is just crazy to me. It’s unbelievable. It hurts. It hurts.”