Update on evacuation at Donald Gardner Stadium during Friday jamboree

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Posted at 3:51 PM, Aug 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-29 17:02:00-04

UPDATE: Opelousas Police Chief Martin McLendon provided more details about an incident that led to the evacuation of Donald Gardner Stadium in the middle of the high school football jamboree Friday night.

As we previously reported, rumors were flying that a shooting occurred, but that turned out to be not true. In a Facebook post, McLendon said there was a fight, but it was after the panic started. The chief said the panic that set people running may have been caused by a prank, but there was no gunfire.

"Obviously panic swamped the stadium, people began to run, and there are so many rumors that are circulating on social media I thought it was best that I would come to you and try to address those issues," he said. "The first thing I want to make clear is there was no gunfire, absolutely no shooting in this stadium last night."

McLendon said investigators are talking to school officials about some students who may have planned a "prank" that caused the panic, and he promised that OPD will be doing security at football games in the city this fall.

McLendon said several juveniles involved in the fight were arrested. He said police are not sure yet where the rumor about gunfire began, but a large group of people started running near one of the bands, the band members began to take cover, and the panic spread from there.

All the officers on duty at the stadium said there was no gunfire. He said officers there were to keep people safe so that everyone could enjoy the evening. He said those officers also are aware that there are juvenile delinquents in Opelousas, and "we know that they are going to be at a function like the jamboree."

The jamboree is supposed to be fun, he said.

"This was an opportunity for families to come and watch their kids play in the first game," he said. "The teachers from all six schools were here, the administrators, everybody was here. The stadium was packed. Security was in place, and something went wrong. Someone even called 911 and said there was a shooting and a victim."

The ambulance came and no wounded person was ever found. That didn't happen, he said.

"There was no shooting. There was panic that took place in this stadium," he said. "We did not shut down this stadium, nor did we prevent the game from being played. The panic caused this to happen."

Investigators are talking to school officials about students who may have planned to cause panic at the game, he said. He also implored people to stop spreading rumors on social media that hurt the city. If you have to talk about Opelousas online, talk the city up, he said.

If you want to see McLendon's statement for yourself, click here.