Halloween Haunt haunts park visitors

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Halloween Haunt haunts park visitors

On Oct. 26, many park-goers fled Great America after someone falsely identified a shooting.

On Oct. 26, many park-goers fled Great America after someone falsely identified a shooting.

Ashley Song

On Oct. 26, many park-goers fled Great America after someone falsely identified a shooting.

Ashley Song

Ashley Song

On Oct. 26, many park-goers fled Great America after someone falsely identified a shooting.

Audrey Wong

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Shooter.

The word that sparked a frenzy among park-goers. On Oct. 26, reports of a shooting happening inside Great America caused waves of park-goers to panic as they tried to escape the park. The cause of the widespread panic was an armed robbery that broke out nearby, which someone falsely identified as a shooting in Great America. This misunderstanding caused many to believe that there was an active shooter, however, a person with a gun was not located, according to the Santa Clara Police Department (SCPD). 

Among these park-goers were Lynbrook students who also fled the park. Freshman Sarah Sun thought that people’s immediate response was to run, following others’ lead.

“The first one or two minutes people were like ‘Is this real?’ and then after that  people were like ‘Oh shoot!’ it actually is,” Sun said. “At first people were not emotional just yet, so they just ran out of instinct.” 

Despite the scare, not all park-goers knew what had taken place to incite the stampede of people. 

“No one actually really knew [what happened] until halfway through it all,” junior Joshua Davis said. “Everyone was starting to panic and run, and then I believe somebody yelled there was a shooter. I think that’s how I figured it out.”

Some park-goers were trapped inside the amusement park and took shelter in the gift shops. Others were able to escape the park and find safety, such as taking refuge in nearby hotels. 

Freshman Lucy Barnes found evacuating the park to be difficult as the overwhelming mass of people crowded the exits. 

 “The barricade [that organized the line of the rides] fell on top of me, so I fell on the ground. M; and my friend was trying to hold me up, but she had to keep running [with the crowd in the direction of the exit],” Barnes said. “I got up and I just sprinted out of the park.”   

In a response to all the chaos, Great America tweeted that “there were unsubstantiated reports of a gunshot at the park”. Both on-property police and park authorities removed a group of teenagers from the park. Although this cleared up the confusion over whether or not there were gunshots, it still did not improve the situation. 

The news of an active shooter caused an uproar on social media. On CBS San Francisco news, the SCPD urged people not to report crimes on social media. 

“In this situation, social media was the conduit for misinformation and unnecessarily drained Police and Fire Department resources,” the statement said.

However, some students felt that the use of social media helped them maintain composure as they were able to communicate with their friends and family. 

“I did [post on social media] but then I deleted it because I didn’t want to draw attention to the shooting,” Barnes said. “I feel like the more we publicize and romanticize shootings, the more common they are.”

Barnes, Davis and Sun believe that there should be increased security and thorough searches when entering Great America so that people cannot bring firearms into the park. 

“I think it’s important for everyone to stay alert,” Barnes’ mother, Jenny Barnes, said. “Any area with large numbers of people could be a potential target. Taking steps to notice exits, alarms, security and play out scenarios as an exercise are useful safety precautions.”

Having undergone such a frightening experience, albeit a false alarm, park-goers hope that there will be addition security and actions taken to prevent future incidents.