By Rick Palsgrove
It was a sound no one expects to hear at a high school football game. A sharp, popping, cracking sound – the sound of gunfire.
The six gunshots happened toward the end of the Canal Winchester at Groveport Madison varsity football game at Groveport Madison High School on Aug. 19.
(See an article detailing the incident on the Messenger website.)
Reactions when the shots were fired
•When the shots were first heard, players on the field on both teams instinctively flinched and looked around. Some then ran for cover while others ducked and hit the ground seeking safety. As some Groveport Madison football players hit the ground to avoid the bullets, coaches and others got in front of the players to help protect them. Police officers and school staff ran toward the gunfire to find and apprehend the shooter and keep people safe.
•The Cruiser Stadium announcer told spectators and players to get low and evacuate the stadium. Parents and school staff used their own bodies to shield and protect children. Other parents looked for their kids. People ran for cover. Luckily, no one was struck by the gunshots.
•A Groveport Madison football player gave his helmet to a child to wear to help protect them.
•Cruiser football players and cheerleaders helped people clear safely from the field.
•A kid was scared and agitated, but his friend put his arms around him to calm him down.
•Canal Winchester Athletic Director Pat Durbin said prior to the game officials from both Canal Winchester and Groveport Madison worked to make the stadium a safe and secure environment. He also said the game was well played with both Canal Winchester Indian and Groveport Madison Cruiser players showing great sportsmanship toward each other.
“There were no unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, no unnecessary roughness penalties, and players helped each other up after plays,” said Durbin. “The players exhibited great behavior.”
Durbin said he was proud of the Canal Winchester football coaches, band director, cheerleading coach, and players.
“They stayed with the kids to ensure their protection,” said Durbin. “They got them quickly and safely out of the stadium. The players looked out for one another. One player carried a special needs student out. Another player put his shoulder pads on a cheerleader to help protect her.”
Durbin said the Cruiser players checked on the Indian players and the Indian players checked on the Cruiser players, both teams making sure everyone was okay.
“We were all one team then,” said Durbin. “There is competition on the field, but both teams and schools were a band of brothers and sisters. There is respect there.”
•Madison Township Fire Chief Derek Robinson said students escaping the gunfire crossed State Route 317 to the fire station because “they know it is a safe space.” Firefighters placed fire trucks at the intersection of State Route 317 and the school entrance to help protect people crossing to the fire station. He said people fleeing Cruiser Stadium also went down the road to seek shelter at the nearby Waffle House.
•Groveport Police Chief Casey Adams said the Groveport and Canal Winchester communities are united.
“The two communities have come together to rally for mutual support,” said Adams. “There is no animosity between the two communities.”
•In an official statement released Aug. 23, Groveport Mayor Lance Westcamp said, “As all of our organizations work together to address the safety and well-being of our residents, students and visitors to Groveport, we will continue to strive to provide a professional level of public service. All of our organizations will continue to work together toward continuing that goal. We are one community and we will continue to operate in that manner.” (See the mayor’s full statement online at columbusmessenger.com, look under Groveport news.)
•At Groveport City Council’s Aug. 22 meeting, council members reflected on the shooting incident.
Councilman Shawn Cleary said, “Let’s not forget about all the good there is in Groveport Madison. There’s a lot of good kids in this district and a lot of good teachers, coaches, and staff. Friday was a bad night, but there is positive stuff in the district. A good education is there if you want it. We have good people in our schools.”
Councilman Jack Rupp commended the efforts of the police and fire personnel on the scene saying they did “outstanding work.”
Councilman Scott Lockett concurred stating it was a “strong effort by our police.”
“Thank goodness no one was hurt,” said Councilwoman Becky Hutson.
Councilman Ed Dildine added, “Great work by everybody. There’s always room to learn and grow.”
“Lots of prayers,” said Councilwoman Jean Ann Hilbert.
•All in all, police, firefighters, school administrators and staff, and others worked together effectively get people to safety.
“It was a terrible situation that brought out the best in everyone,” said Groveport Madison Schools Superintendent James Grube.