VIDEO: Couple recalls panic at Virginia high school football game as gunshots rang out

Virginia News

ESSEX COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A juvenile is in custody, with several other persons of interest identified, according to the Essex County Sheriff’s Office, after two deputies were assaulted and shots rang out at a high school football game on Friday night.

Jason and Tressie Lacks were at the Essex-King and Queen matchup. Their son plays for the Royal Tigers, who were the visiting team and Jason films the games for King & Queen.

“As I was filming the game, [I] noticed in the corner of my eye a bunch of kids running to the parking lot,” Jason Lacks said. “[I] looked over at the parking lot, and it was a pile of people, including Essex County Sheriff’s Office over there.”

According to information from authorities, what Lacks described was a fight that broke out in front of the football stadium’s ticket booth and extended out into the high school parking lot at approximately 8:23 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 24. The game was in its third quarter. During that altercation is when the deputies were assaulted. They were seen at Tappahannock VCU Hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

Then, at approximately 8:32 p.m., several shots were fired in the high school parking lot, which initiated Essex County High School staff to activate a panic alarm.

Essex County High School’s football team was up 7-6 against King & Queen County High School when shots rang out from the parking lot during third quarter play. (Photo: Tressie Lacks)

Moments later, a second set of shots were reportedly fired near the softball field. Emergency protocols were put into place and the football game halted. All players, coaches and attendees were directed to take cover and move to the visitors side of the football field.

Shortly thereafter, the sheriff’s office said that a dark-colored SUV and a white sedan, heading toward Tappahannock Boulevard, drove by the high school and fired several shots. Although authorities searched for both cars, they managed to leave the area.

“I think it took three or four shots before everybody realized what was going on and everybody started running towards the football field,” Jason said. “The boys on the football field, they took off running to the locker room. Then, I mean, like I said, it’s like you see on the movies. Everybody just started running every direction. It was just so crazy.”

On the other side of the field, in the visitors section, sat Tressie and two of their three daughters in attendance.

“I had just sent my 13-year-old daughter to go get a drink with some group of friends at the concession stand and she was all the way on the other side of the field, which made it — I couldn’t lay my eyes on her, and that was the hard thing,” Tressie said. “While everybody was running and just going crazy, because nobody really knew, at that time, what was going on or what to do, we were trying to go against everybody else that was running down, trying to take shelter, trying to find her and screaming for her.”

Tressie said that finally finding her daughter was the biggest relief. She then took cover behind a building on the visitors side of the field and picked up the phone.

“I called my mom because I, at that moment, I just thought that this was an active shooter,” Tressie said. “I just thought that this was another school shooting, another someone out here that’s ready to take out people, and I called her to tell her that I loved her, and I just wanted her to know that I loved her and that I had everybody here with me.”

Jason and Tressie credited the Essex County Sheriff’s Office for getting the scene under control quickly, as well as staff from both schools for their willingness to stay and help those in attendance at the game. Although she said it felt like an eternity, Tressie said that their family was able to leave the game around 9 p.m., approximately 40 minutes after the first incident.

As of Saturday morning, the Essex County Sheriff’s Office said that there had been no reports of bystander injuries.

“It was really good sportsmanship on and off the field between the players and the people,” Jason said. “I’ll still be at the football field every Friday, supporting the Tigers.”

As the school’s panic alarm went off, the game was put on hold with just a few minutes remaining in the third quarter. Essex was up 7-6. The public has not been made aware of whether the game will be reschedule to finish out the play clock.

Anyone with information, including photos or video of the incidents that unfolded, is encouraged to contact authorities by calling or texting 804-443-3248.

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