OREM, Utah – Parents and children were left in a panic after police said a disagreement between two adults at a youth football match in Orem quickly spiraled out of control.
Several people who were on the football pitches behind the Geneva primary school on Saturday described the scene as chaotic, with parents grabbing their children and running.
Someone shouted “gun!” during the game, and those who experienced it said the threat was very real.
Jesse Ellis was watching his 9-year-old son Aiden play when an argument broke out on a different pitch between two adults who were watching a game.
“On the right side, a dad came running onto the field. His son was playing goalie and he just grabbed his kid and started running, and we were all saying what was going on, and behind us we heard someone yelling ‘gun’,” Ellis said. “We jumped. We grabbed our kids and started running.
“I was just confused, so I was like, ‘what are you doing dad?! We’re in the middle of a game!’ said Aiden.
Rumor had it that a man was going to get a gun from his car, but he would come back.
For the few hundred people present, it created a panic of running and screaming as parents rushed to get their children off the pitch.
“We were all reacting to our biggest fears,” Ellis said. “Everyone was in crisis. It was fight or flight.
Once the police arrived, the scene calmed down. They said the complaint was unfounded and no one has been charged, although they did not say whether the man in question actually had a gun.
For Aiden, it was a scary experience, but that won’t stop him from playing football.
“When I think about it, it’s like a shiver goes through my hair, but after a second it’s gone,” Aiden said.
Her father hopes the rest of the kids there will be just as resilient.
“The last thing you want is for someone to have a negative association with football or not being able to participate in something they love because of trauma,” Ellis said.
Aiden’s team got together as a group on Sunday to talk about what happened. They also brought in a crisis counselor and a police officer to help the children work through their feelings.