The unthinkable happened Friday night at Garanti Rate Field when two women were hit by gunfire in the left field bleachers during the fourth inning of the Chicago White Sox’s loss to the Oakland A’s.
A day after the shooting, a Chicago police investigation still had no answers as to how the incident happened or where the shots came from.
A shooting at a major league baseball stadium would obviously seem serious enough to stop the game and empty the stadium. But play carried on as if nothing had happened, and Sox security simply moved fans to another area while searching the stands for casings.
The Sox on Saturday defended their decision to continue playing, saying there was no “active threat” against anyone in the park.
“He was initially presented as just a fan in need of first aid,” vice president of communications Scott Reifert said ahead of Saturday’s game. “It was an injury. No one understood that it was a bullet or a gunshot. So there was this delay before this person received his treatment. Then, by investigating a little more, we began to understand what could have happened.
According to the police report, patrol chief Brian McDermott asked the Sox to stop the game for “public safety” reasons at 8:12 p.m. shortly after the incident.
Why didn’t the Sox respond?
“Once the police arrived and spoke to us, they understood that this was not an active threat,” Reifert said.
At that time, the Sox knew the injuries were the result of gunshots, but did not believe anyone was in imminent danger. The fans were not informed and even the team was not informed of the incident until after the game.
“I didn’t feel like it was an active threat that would have affected the team per se,” Reifert said.
Manager Pedro Grifol said he was “absolutely” okay with the decision not to tell the team during the game, even though many, including him, had family members present.
“If they felt we were in danger, they probably would have let us know before (the end),” Grifol said. “We never felt threatened. »
MLB was alerted to the incident and White Sox President Jerry Reinsdorf, who was watching the game in his suite, was kept informed.
“He was conscious and very worried,” Reifert said. “He reacted first and foremost with a kind of concern for the fans. Fans who were injured then asked, “What do we know? and “How do we know that?” »
Reifert said no gunshots were heard in the park. In his description of the incident, he said the woman had come to first aid with an injury. He didn’t know if she immediately realized it was a gunshot wound.
“It’s been a while before we can figure out what happened, isn’t it?” he said. “And then there’s an investigation in space going on at the same time. Basically, all of these things come together to say, “Wow, we have someone who somehow got shot. But there’s no gun report, there’s no gunshot.
The police report states that the woman was shot in the thigh and the bullet was “embedded in her lower leg”. But the reaction from fans in the section showed no panic, according to a video released by the team.
“You’ve seen the video, you see how people nearby don’t really react,” Reifert said. “So given the time lag and given what happened, our security and CPD were pretty confident the game could go on while we did this investigation and tried to figure out what was going on.”
Does the fact that two people were shot suggest that there might be an imminent threat?
“It’s obviously a DPC thing,” Reifert said. “In the end, they will control the situation. If they believe there is a public safety problem, they will act.
Reifert said they felt lucky that the two victims were not more seriously injured. One woman refused treatment for an abrasion and another found a bullet in her hoodie.
“Absolutely,” Reifert said. “That kind of coincidence, isn’t it?” It’s that kind of crazy coincidence. It would be nice to have some sort of closure on how this happened, because every scenario someone comes up with seems crazy. But something happened, so we have to find out.
Do the Sox believe the shots came from outside the park and landed in the stands, as some have speculated?
“I don’t want to say what it could have been, but that’s what the investigation will hopefully show,” Reifert said. “And I guess there’s a chance they’ll never know. I don’t know.”
When the stadium was under construction and called New Comiskey Park in January 1991, police confirmed reports of bullet holes in the center field scoreboard, which led to a check, and three other seats were damaged by gunfire on the upper deck.
According to a Tribune report, a bullet, which police believe may have come from a rifle, was recovered. A CPD spokesperson speculated that the shots came from “high-rise buildings near or somewhere in or near the ballpark.”
The Sox believed it was a random act that would not be repeated.
“Comiskey Park has existed peacefully in the neighborhood for 80 years,” Rob Gallas, then vice president, told the Tribune. “So far, nothing like this has happened, and we are confident that once the construction is completed, this whole matter will be settled. »
No further shootings inside the stadium took place until Friday, days after the Sox confirmed they could be looking for a new home before Garantie Rate Field’s lease expires in six years.
In Section 161 where the shooting took place, fans settled in for Dylan Cease action figure night.
Mike Schneegas, a 42-year-old bleacher regular from Itasca, laughed when asked if he had any concerns about another shooting incident.
“I’m more worried about what they’re doing with the front office,” he said, referring to the search to replace fired executives Ken Williams and Rick Hahn.
Many didn’t realize there was a shooting in the section on Friday, and one fan of Section 161 said “it’s the safest night to be here”.
In a week that tested the patience of Sox fans, gallows humor was all they had left.