The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

28 people shot, one fatally, during gunfight at Arkansas car show, police say

Two men were to have opened fire at each other while bullets hit several bystanders

A shooting at this site in Arkansas injured dozens of people and killed one Saturday night. (Staci Vandagriff/Associated Press)

Two men opened fire at a car show in a small Arkansas city on Saturday evening in what police called a “gunfight,” wounding 28 people, one of them fatally. Among the wounded were at least five children under the age of 12.

The attack stunned Dumas, a city of about 4,000 people in southeastern Arkansas where a local nonprofit group has long sponsored such car shows, and reverberated across the state. Federal and state officials tweeted condolences, requests for prayers and support for law enforcement investigating the shooting.

Arkansas police said that they had one man in custody but that he was being held on unrelated charges after leaving the scene of the shooting. State police spokesman Bill Sadler later said that the man in custody is being questioned in relation to the shooting.

Authorities were still looking for at least one other man, Bill Bryant, director of the state police, said at a Sunday news conference. “It was no mass shooting intended on this. It was two individuals who got in a gunfight,” Bryant said, adding, “You don’t expect that from small-town Arkansas.”

Bryant said the man who died, Cameron Shaffer, 23, was a bystander not suspected of being involved in the shooting. Shaffer was from Jacksonville, a suburb of Little Rock, about 90 minutes away by car.

Bryant said two of the child victims were under the age of 2, while others were 8, 9 and 11. Arkansas Children’s Hospital reported treating six victims of the attack and said that most had been released by Sunday. Bryant said it was not clear whether five or six children were wounded in the attack.

The shooting occurred during the 16th annual Hood-Nic car show. Hood-Nic is short for “neighborhood picnic,” and it is hosted by the Delta Neighborhood Empowerment Youth Organization. The group raises money for tutoring, scholarships, backpacks for students and other support for residents of Dumas and the surrounding area, according to its website.

The group focuses on helping those in what it calls “poverty-stricken” areas. “We are heartbroken and in shock at what took place during tonight’s car show,” said a Facebook post from the foundation.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) tweeted Sunday, “As the investigation continues I will examine details to see if there are any steps that could have been taken to prevent this type of tragedy.”

Dumas police responded to the incident at 6:50 p.m. on Saturday after reports of gunfire in the parking lot of a former discount store on U.S. Highway 65, a commercial road passing through the middle of Dumas.

Video obtained by an NBC affiliate in Arkansas showed people leading victims of the shooting to ambulances. Wallace McGehee, the event’s organizer, told the station that he “saw a bunch of shooting and people running.” He was running, ducking and “trying to get kids out of the way,” he added.

“That was the issue for all of us, was getting kids out of the way, getting people out of the way,” McGehee said. “Some of us put our own self into risk just to get people out of the way, to get the kids out of the way.” He added, “We’ve been doing this for 16 years and never had a problem.”

Chris Jones, a Democratic candidate for Arkansas governor, said he had attended the Dumas event before the shooting and had registered voters, enjoyed music and seen friends there. “I am deeply saddened (and honestly angered) by this tragedy,” Jones said in a statement. “Dumas needs our thoughts and prayers and actions.”

Republican gubernatorial candidate Sarah Sanders, a former White House press secretary, tweeted Sunday morning, “Prayers for the community of Dumas for the senseless and tragic shooting at a community event last night. Thankful for our law enforcement and first responders for their actions during this difficult time.”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) tweeted, “The hearts of Arkansas from across the state are with the people of Dumas today. I’m grateful to the Arkansas State Police for their work on the case, and I pray that God will bring comfort to the victims and their families.”

Anyone with information on the shooting was urged to contact law enforcement.