It happened again Friday night. A gun was brought into the gymnasium at Carman-Ainsworth high school in Flint Twp. during the boys’ varsity game with Grand Blanc. I received a text from our photographer covering that game while I was at my desk gathering scores from other games. It said: “Game and possibly a gun. Not confirmed.” Our photographer, a retired Michigan High School Athletic Association official with 37-years’ experience, was under lockdown in the gymnasium along with the rest of the sold-out crowd. He said he’s never seen so many people trying to get out of the stands all at the same time. Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton had been sitting with our photographer looking at photos on his camera just moments before the incident happened.
Friday was to be a special night for Carman-Ainsworth, as it unveiled its Unified Team made up of special needs kids and non-basketball kids from within the high school serving as mentor teammates. A cheerleading squad of Unified girls was also in action for the first time ever.
Leyton described the scene as “a human avalanche of people” trying to seek cover after a 17-year-old with a suspected concealed gun was spotted by Flint Twp. police in the stands. The teen tried to flee from police and was chased across the basketball court and into the hallway where he was apprehended. A sell-out crowd of 1,300 was on hand and the Class A Saginaw Valley League matchup had been a highlight reel game up to that point with the Cavs leading Grand Blanc 37-35 at the half. The game was canceled and will be made up in January. Similar to the New Jersey high school football game that was interrupted by gunfire in mid-November. That game was played later in a closed stadium, no fans.
This is the second gun incident at Carman-Ainsworth High since June, where a shooting outside the building sent media, players and fans seeking cover in locker rooms and out back doors where armed police officers took them to safety. On Friday night, our photographer was escorted to his car by armed police officers.
I wrote in this very column space after the New Jersey incident how much more dangerous it has become to cover high school sports. A lot of the fun has been taken out of doing just that as we consider our safety first.
Instead of celebrating a win by one of the teams, school officials instead were at the Flint Twp. police administration building Sunday morning for a press conference to address the incident and what schools may have to do going forward.
It makes me so mad that we are having these conversations again this week. It’s also extremely upsetting that we along with players, officials and fans are continuing to walk unknowingly into potentially dangerous situations at high school sports events.
Schools are going to have to take the next step, just as Grand Blanc did last year, to implement a no bags rule. No bags, backpacks or purses are allowed unless medically necessary, and even those will be searched. College and professional stadiums follow the no bags rule. They have for quite a few years.
Carman-Ainsworth will implement this plan immediately for all athletic events going forward. Other high schools have to look past the “it can’t happen here” mantra, face reality and put safety first by doing the same. Theirs is not an easy job. Guaranteeing the safety of hundreds to thousands of people on game nights has to be priority No. 1.
We’re committed to covering high school sports for our readers and for the athletes themselves. Our reporters and photographers will be there. Let’s hope the increased security measures – a good dose of common sense among the spectators – allow us to focus our attention on the games and athletes and not on another idiot with a gun.