SPOKANE - Spokane's biggest Hoopfest in history is behind us but not before a gang-related shooting gave the event a black eye. Luckily the shooting happened right in front of an off-duty policewoman who played an integral role in bringing the incident to a swift conclusion.
Detective Stacey Carr had volunteered for a charity event in the park along with her 11-year-old daughter when she saw the shooting happen. Carr discretely followed the suspects until she could guide other officers to the scene on her cell phone.
?I saw his hands out like he's holding a gun, but I don't see the gun ? [and] he turns around and he looks like he's firing but again I don't see the gun and I hear the pop, pop,? Carr said.
The bullets intended for a rival gangster ended up hitting two innocent bystanders who did not want to be identified.
?I looked over and saw a gun and i was like, 'Oh my gosh there's a gun? and we started to walk fast away and that's when we heard the pop,? one of the shooting victims said.
?Everything blacked out and I didn't know what to do. I was like ?Oh my gosh I've been shot?,? the second shooting victim said.
Not realizing someone had been hit by the gunfire Detective Carr wanted to get a good description of the shooter and pull out her cell phone.
?So I grab my phone and I started to call 9-1-1 then I hung up because I wanted to get a picture of this guy because I was sure I was going to lose him in the crowd,? Carr said.
She then began following the suspects as they tried to leave Riverfront Park, her 11-year-old not far behind her.
?The suspects are high fiving each other and going like oh we've got it made ? kept following and then I see another officer and that was the time they started splitting up,? she said.
About then the reinforcements arrived on the scene and took the suspects into custody. Police identified the gunman as 19-year-old Miguel Garcia and arrested him on two counts of 1st Degree Assault.
Detective Carr was relieved no one was more seriously injured than the two women, one of who was shot in the foot and the other in the shin, and was also glad her off duty clothes gave her a chance to keep the suspects in sight.
?I have to admit that once they were in custody I went to the shooter and looked at him and said to the shooter, ?You gotta remember cops come in all shapes and colors?,? Carr said.
In the wake of the shooting incident the inevitable questions started coming: Is there enough security at Hoopfest? Is there even a way to keep tens of thousands of in an outdoor downtown area safe? Is Hoopfest getting too big to be manageable?
"We have a layered security plan," Hoopfest Executive Director Rick Steltenpohl answered. "We have a lot of people."
There are multiple layers of security at the event; from court monitors on every court to court marshals that manage a half dozen or more courts each. There are security personnel in charge of each of Hoopfest?s five zones as well as police officers roaming Hoopfest. Finally there is a rapid response team that consists of 25 members from a variety of law enforcement agencies whose sole mission is to keep Hoopfest safe. In short there are a lot of eyes watching the crowds to make sure nothing bad happens.
Hoopfest's plan for dealing with an incident like this was used for the first time Saturday and it worked well. Within minutes the suspects were in police custody, the wounded were in ambulances en route to the hospital, and the scene was secure.
"Our plan worked perfectly. We'll review our plan again, but clearly we can't control every incident that happens, all we can do is react to it," Steltenpohl said.
But is Hoopfest getting too big to keep safe?
Steltenpohl says the 6,990 team Hoopfest is not getting too big to manage, adding the operations are similar for a tournament of 200 teams compared with a tournament of 7,000. But he did say Hoopfest is nearing its peak numbers.
"We are certainly reaching capacity. We don't think we are reaching it from an operational perspective, but space-wise we are," Steltenpohl said, explaining they are running out of room for basketball courts.
At an event as big as Hoopfest, held outdoors with no entry point where police can search people, is it possible to keep people completely safe?
"We have a gang problem in Spokane," Spokane Police Department Spokesperson Jennifer DeRuwe said. "We have related crimes and they are continuing to be more violent. So when you have Hoopfest, and all those variables, it?s a recipe for disaster."
KXLY4's McKay Allen contributed to this report