By STAFF REPORT
Shots fired in Essex County High School’s parking lot Friday night shut down the Tappahannock school’s football game against King & Queen County, according to a release from the Essex County Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities are investigating a series of events, which began with a fight that broke out about 8:20 p.m. at the school’s ticket booth, reported Sheriff W.A. “Arnie” Holmes.
The fight extended into the parking lot, and two county deputies were assaulted during the altercation, police said. About 10 minutes later, several shots were fired in the lot, which initiated school staff to activate a panic alarm, Holmes reported.
Moments later, more shots were fired near the school’s softball field. Emergency protocols were put into place and the football game was shut down. All players, coaches and attendees were directed to take cover and move to the visiting side of the football field, according to the release.
Then, a dark SUV and white sedan heading toward Tappahannock Boulevard drove by the high school and more shots were fired. A search for both vehicles began, but both vehicles left the area, police said.
Personnel from several agencies, including Tappahannock and Virginia State police departments; King and Queen, Richmond and Northumberland county sheriff’s offices; and Chesapeake Bay Gang and Narcotics Task Force assisted with the evacuation of players and attendees, the release stated.
“This evening our football game was interrupted with an act of violence in our school parking lot,” wrote Essex Principal Damean Barfield in a letter to the community Friday night. “At this time, we believe outsiders brought this unnecessary, unwelcomed behavior to our community. For that, I apologize. Safety will always be a top priority.”
Authorities have identified several persons of interest, thanks to tips provided by citizens, police said.
A Northumberland County juvenile is in custody on multiple charges, including two counts of assault on a law enforcement officer. More charges and arrests are expected, the sheriff’s office said.
The public is encouraged to send any tips or videos from this incident by calling or texting 804/443-3248.
There have been no reports of bystander injuries. The two deputies were sent to a local hospital for minor injuries, police said.
On Aug. 27, a fight between two groups led to shots fired in the parking lot of a Woodbridge high school after a football game between Freedom and Brooke Point, a Stafford County school. A 15-year-old boy was shot in the lower body and a 14-year-old girl was grazed in the foot. Neither was involved in the altercation, police said.
A juvenile suspect from Woodbridge has been charged in that incident.