A man with a BB gun angry at another man for hitting his partner allegedly set off events that led hundreds of people to flee the Capital Pride Parade in Washington on Saturday, fearing a mass shooter, D.C. police said Sunday.
Reports that shots had been fired sent people running through the streets away from downtown’s landmark Dupont Circle shortly after 7 p.m., and witnesses accounts and video spread quickly on social media.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said shortly afterward that “there were no shots fired.” D.C. police Cdr. Guillermo Rivera added in an evening press conference, “We had officers close by, and at this point there’s no evidence of any gunshots.”
Instead, police reported Sunday morning that Aftabjit Singh, 38, of no fixed address, had been arrested on weapons and disorderly conduct charges after witnesses led officers to him near the fountain at the center of a circle. Singh was stopped as he approached a brown paper bag containing a silver-colored imitation pistol, police said.
Singh “claimed he pulled the gun out on an unidentified individual who was hitting his significant other,” Officer Blaise Maio wrote in a police report, adding that Singh claimed it was a BB gun.
“I’ll be back. I’ll shoot that m***** f*****,” Singh said as was taken away by police, the officer wrote.
The incident, which occurred about 7:20 p.m., ended the parade, officials said.
Videos posted on Twitter showed people trying to leave the circle in a panic. At first they appear to be obstructed by linked metal crowd control barriers, but then they rapidly overrun them.
It was not clear if noises caused by the falling metal barriers were mistaken for gunshots.
Rivera told reporters Saturday evening that some people fleeing the scene told police someone had fired shots. Officer Maio’s report said as he approached the center of the circle, several witnesses reported a man with a gun, and a “concerned citizen” pointed out Singh.
Rivera said no gunshots were fired by the weapon found. Police said they were trying to learn the source of any noises heard by witnesses, reviewing video and witness reports, but that officers did not report hearing gunshots.
Seven people were taken to hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries apparently suffered in the panic, police said.
Peter Hermann, Marty Weil and Clarence Williams contributed to this report.