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Shooting erupts during Shakespeare performance in West Side Park

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Block Club Chicago
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Austin. A family theater event in Columbus Park ended in chaos Thursday night after someone shot while the performers were on stage.

The shooting occurred around 6:45 p.m., just 15 minutes after Shakespeare in the Parks began in Columbus Park at 500 S. Central Ave., police said.

Witnesses saw families take cover and lie down on the grass to avoid being shot, while other people in the crowd fled from the playground where the shooting started.

According to police, no one was hurt, but a parked car was shot at.

At the free event, musicians, actors and dancers performed songs based on popular scenes from William Shakespeare’s plays as part of a series of pop-up events in the parks of Chicago’s Shakespeare Theatre.

The shooting began just three songs into the event, said Nicole Miano, who brought her two children to enjoy the park on a warm summer evening.

“They sounded like fireworks to me. To be honest, I was a little shocked,” she said. “People were running, there was a lot of noise. My friend said: “Lie down, get down.”

Credit: Keith Yerman
When the shooting began, artists from the Chicago Shakespeare Theater were performing on stage.

When the shooting started, Miano and her children were watching a performance of Shakespeare from the back of the hall near the playground. When she realized what was happening, she said, she put her children to bed to protect them from gunshots.

According to Miano, a boy with a gun was running nearby.

The incident left Miano fearful for the safety of her children and how they would be affected by the threat of gun violence. No child should be “unnecessarily traumatized” or should “experience it because of where they live,” Miano said.

“I have other events in the parks planned on my calendar. … I’m honestly thinking about whether I will take my children to them, ”she said. “I probably won’t take my kids to the summer dances in Grant Park or Millennium Park because stuff happens there too.”

The rest of the show was cancelled. Officers arrived at the park shortly after and they are investigating, a police spokesman said. Nobody was arrested.

Keith Yerman was photographing the performance when he began to hear loud noises, which he at first thought were fireworks. It wasn’t until he saw the crowds of people trying to take cover and running from the playground that he learned that the 15 loud bangs he heard were gunshots.

“Fear didn’t hit me at that moment. … It didn’t really register until later. I have never experienced something like this before and I hope that I will never experience it again,” Yerman said.

Credit: Keith Yerma
Keith Yerman photographed one of the shooters running in the park.

Yerman saw Shakespeare’s staff hiding behind the equipment. He also saw the director waving her arms to stop the show and take the performers to safety.

According to him, Yerman photographed one of the militants running through the park.

“I saw a group of people from the audience start running while others ducked and lay flat on the ground,” Yerman said. “Several people did leave their belongings, blankets, folding chairs and the like.”

The Chicago Shakespeare Theater has canceled two performances scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Ogden Park and Ping Tom Park due to the incident, chief executive Chriss Henderson said. The organization is working with Park District to plan future events and provide support to its members, Criss said.

“Everyone is safe, no one was hurt, but we are aware and concerned about how disturbing and disturbing this has been for everyone involved,” Criss said in a statement. “We remain committed to the neighborhoods and communities that have kept Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks so dear to our hearts for 11 years. We will return and continue to create together.”

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