Violence sparks at Great America

Patricia Wei

It was midnight at Great America’s Halloween Haunt on Saturday, Oct. 28. As seniors Ashley Kim, Chloe Kim and Evalina Xu were preparing to exit the amusement park, they saw helicopters with searchlights hovering over them. A crowd of people was running, trying to disperse. Two large police cars stood at the park’s entrance. Theft and violence had broken out among teenagers.

Teens were punched and tasered, and at least 15 robberies and four assaults were reported. The Santa Clara Police Department arrested a mother for using a stun gun on a minor, a minor for suspicions of theft and another person for public intoxication.

“There were so many policemen outside the gates,” said Chloe. “It was worrying and pretty scary. It was like a scene from a movie.”

Great America’s Halloween Haunt, promoted as “The Fright of Your Life,” drew more than 20,000 visitors over the course of one month to tour the amusement park’s attractions such as mazes, live shows, haunted houses and roller coasters. Fights among teens reportedly occurred because of a dispute in one of the long lines at the park. The violence eventually escalated and some visitors used stun guns to taze people in the crowd. Some visitors were told to vacate the attraction. Reports on social media during the time reflected that at first, people thought the incident was part of the show, until employees told them to evacuate.

The chaos increased when bystanders used their phones to film the fights, which led to the theft of several phones. Security guards were present, but the groups of teens greatly outnumbered them. Many teens in the crowd who were not involved in the fights were also punched. A 44-year-old woman was arrested for using a stun gun against a minor who assaulted her child.

This violence is unprecedented for Santa Clara County’s biggest amusement park, which holds high security standards. Every visitor is required to check-in their bag with security guards before entering the amusement park, and police are investigating how tasers were brought beyond Great America’s checkpoints.

“I have gone to the Halloween Haunt for several years, and this is the first time anything like this has happened,” said Ashley.

This year was senior Eileen Choi’s first time attending Great America’s Halloween Haunt. She had wanted to attend since the 7th grade but her parents did not allow her, citing safety concerns because the event was at night. She went to the Halloween Haunt on Oct. 27, the night before the fights and thefts occurred.

“I felt safe going to Great America because I knew there would be security checkpoints and security guards,” said Choi. “The fact that [Great America] goes through the trouble to check visitors’ bags but people were still able to bring tasers inside the amusement park is scary and shocking, and security procedures should probably be re-examined.”

Many people who visited Halloween Haunt have echoed Choi’s thoughts. Amusement park attendees such as Xu have wondered how the tasers were let into the park, past security check.

“Although events like this rarely happen, this does make you question the amusement park’s security,” said Xu. “I would still feel comfortable attending the Halloween Haunt again, but I find it strange how security did not see the tasers even when they checked everyone’s bags.”

The events that occurred did not affect Great America’s hours or dates for the Halloween Haunt, which ended on Oct. 29 as planned. Security will be increased for the Halloween Haunt in 2018.

“There were incidents on October 28 at California’s Great America that required assistance from on property Santa Clara police officers and were quickly addressed,” the park’s statement said. “The safety of our guests is our top priority.”