The final evening of the Minnesota State Fair was tainted by violence inside and outside that authorities Tuesday were still trying to unravel.
Three men were shot outside its main entrance and a woman was critically injured when she was struck by a car whose driver was then mobbed by a group of people at the scene. In a panic, he threatened to shoot them if they broke his car window.
Police also responded to several other disturbances Monday night, including a report of a youth running through the Midway area pepper-spraying people. Emergency personnel treated several victims, including a number of children, some as young as 3 to 4.
“It’s a sad day when this type of behavior finds its way to the doorstep of our State Fair,” said Jerry Hammer, the fair’s general manager. “The fair is where we all gather to celebrate the very best of each other, and we will continue to make the safety and security of everyone our number one priority.”
Gov. Tim Walz also decried the violence. “The State Fair is called the Great Minnesota Get-Together for a reason: it brings communities across the state together,” he said in a tweet Tuesday morning. “Last night, that sense of community was taken by gun violence.”
A police spokesman said Tuesday that three men — ages 20, 18, and 20 — suffered noncritical injuries when gunfire broke out at a busy intersection near the main entrance on Snelling Avenue in the fair’s waning hours Monday night. Investigators believe two guns were used, determined by shell casings of different calibers found at the scene, according to police spokesman Steve Linders.
“I can tell you this, the responsibility for this lies squarely with the people who pulled the trigger,” he told reporters at a news conference outside police headquarters. “It was brazen, it was lawless, it showed no regard for human life.”
Linders said that one of the victims, a 20-year-old St. Paul man who was shot in the hand, was later arrested and booked into the Ramsey County jail on an outstanding gun possession warrant. He said it was too early to say what led to the attack, or whether it was connected to the earlier incident where the woman was hit by a vehicle, sometime around 10 p.m.
Officers were tending to the woman, identified as Dynasty Scott, when they heard gunshots coming from an intersection two blocks south of their location.
Witnesses told police that Scott was seen getting into a vehicle in the northbound lane of Snelling moments before getting out and being struck by a car. Whether she got out on her own or was forced out was not immediately clear, Linders said.
The 39-year-old driver of the vehicle that struck her called 911, telling a dispatcher that the woman “jumped out in front” of his car and he was fearful for his safety after a group of onlookers started banging on his windows and yelling for him to get out of the vehicle, according to the 911 transcript.
“I’m armed. I do have a sidearm. I can defend myself if necessary,” he said, as the dispatcher tried to pinpoint his exact location.
The dispatcher answered a moment later, “Hang on for me. You need to keep yourself safe.”
“Should I leave? You better send a cop to get here quick, I’mma kill this dude,” the driver said.
“No! Do not … hang on,” the dispatcher said.
“They break this window, I will shoot someone,” the driver responded.
The dispatcher then advised the motorist to drive away and arranged for an officer to meet him at a nearby restaurant.
Authorities say the man was not impaired and was following the speed limit. He is not expected to face charges.
“It does not look at this point like there is anything criminal; this is just a tragedy,” said Linders, adding that detectives were still looking into whether Scott had been involved in an earlier altercation on the fairgrounds, a video of which was circulating on Facebook Monday night. The video shows at least six teenagers stomping on the stomach of a young woman curled up on the ground. Teens scattered as an officer approached.
Scott remained at Regions Hospital on Tuesday, where her condition had stabilized but remained critical.
The shooting comes at a time of heightened anxiety around the country spurred by a wave of mass shootings, the latest of which happened in West Texas only days before, leaving at least seven people dead.
On Monday night, fairgoers panicked and ran for the exits when they heard the shots fired.
Friends of a woman who was later treated at Regions said that she was injured in the ensuing chaos when, while following the fleeing crowd, she hit her head against an air conditioning unit.
Around midnight, several fights broke out between a group of 30 to 40 people waiting to be let in to Regions, where two of the gunshot victims were taken, prompting officers to deploy pepper spray on them, Linders said. The hospital was placed on lockdown, and three people were later arrested on riot charges.
St. Paul City Council President Amy Brendmoen said more needs to be done to contain the rowdy scenes that sometimes unfold when grieving friends and relatives descend on Regions after a shooting.
“We really need to a get a handle on that,” she said. “The medical professionals need to be able to do their work.”
In the night’s first major incident, officers responding to an emergency call at a home in the 1700 block of E. Ivy Avenue around 8:30 p.m. found a man suffering from a gunshot wound. The victim, identified as St. Paul firefighter Thomas R. Harrigan, 36, succumbed to his injuries sometime after being transported to Regions, Linders said. The circumstances behind his death remain under investigation.
No arrests have been announced in either the homicide, the city’s 15th of the year, or the triple shooting.