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'No evidence' of any gunfire at South Carolina State Fair, deputies say

Richland County deputies say they searched the fairgrounds after a stampede Saturday night, but found no signs of a shooting.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Richland County deputies said again Sunday that there was no gunfire at the South Carolina Sunday night, and feel that way after reviewing the social media videos that have been circulating online.

"There's just no evidence to support this statement that there was gunfire at the fair," said Major Harry Polis with the Richland County Sheriff's Department. "We would have known. 

Just after 10 p.m. people began calling the WLTX newsroom to say they'd seen a large group of people running for the exits and out of the grounds. Videos posted on social media also showed a portion of what happened.

RELATED: Youth curfew in effect daily at South Carolina State Fair

Polis said a group of juveniles began running through the fair telling people that they'd seen a gun and that shots had been fired. That triggered a panic in the crowd, leading to a stampede of people where some people fell on the ground and were injured. Polis said several people were transported to the hospital from the fair for treatment, and it's his understanding they've been released. 

"No one can be prepared for the amount of stampeding that took place last night," Polis said. 

But he said after an investigation, they don't believe there were any actual shots fired.

"We searched and scoured the fair after the crowd had left," he said. "There were no shell casings, there was no indication that there had been an actual shooting."

"All of our deputies are exposed to gunfire as part of our training. We're very familiar with what gunfire sounds like. None of our deputies--and I asked many times last night, to be absolutely sure--heard gunfire at the fair."

"Had there been gunfire there would have been a crime scene we would have been looking for, and we want to make sure our citizens receive the proper medical care if there had been gunfire."

He said the agency is aware of a scuffle that happened in the fair, and a social media video of that fight that ended with what  many online thought was one young male pointing a gun. However, deputies say it wasn't a weapon at all. 

"We understand the social media reports that something totally different. We've seen the video of the individual who is pointing their finger. It's not a gun. We've had investigators look at the video. We are all confident that it is his hand."

Polis said when people go through security, and they set off the alarm, they are wanded. If they pass that screening, they're allowed to go inside. 

He also added that the department prepares for months for the fair.

"This is a safe environment," he said. "The fair is a great place to bring your family and we encourage you to come back."

The fair was closed for the night, but resumed normal operations Sunday.

"This is a safe environment," Polis said. "The fair is a great place to bring your family and we encourage you to come back."

 State Fair General Manager Nancy Smith issued the following statement:

“Earlier tonight, The SC State Fair experienced young adults running through the grounds in waves, which created a disruption and understandably anxiety for our patrons.

“We have confirmed with several area law enforcement agencies that no shots were fired on the fairgrounds and, fortunately, no serious injuries occurred.

“Law enforcement was able to bring the situation under control in a timely manner and in an abundance of caution, we decided to close our Midway at 11 p.m.

“We are very grateful for the efforts of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and the South Carolina Highway Patrol. We will remain diligent in our efforts to maintain the highest customer safety standards that fairgoers have become accustomed to.

“As J. T. McLawhorn, President and CEO of the Columbia Urban League reminded us….The fair is much like a sanctuary. Violence has no place in a sanctuary and therefore violence has no place at the SC State Fair.

“As with all our other security measures, our youth admission policy remains in place, and we will continue to stringently enforce that policy.”

Here is the State Fair's youth entrance policy:

After 6:00 pm, everyone under the age of 18 is required to be accompanied by a parent to enter the fairgrounds.

We may ask for ID as proof of age. Anyone under 18 without ID who is not accompanied by a parent will not be admitted after 6:00 pm.

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