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Panic at Salt Lake City soccer tournament as rifle seen during argument

Posted at 1:08 PM, Sep 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-13 19:14:45-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Panic set in among parents and children attending a local soccer tournament Saturday after a firearm was seen during an argument between two groups of people from the same team.

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A witness at the tournament at the Regional Athletic Complex in Salt Lake City said everyone started running, screaming and jumping over fences when they heard someone had a gun.

Salt Lake City police confirm there was an altercation unrelated to soccer around 2:30 p.m., which then became physical between the groups. In the middle of the confrontation, a rifle was displayed by one of the individuals involved.

Word quickly spread after witnesses saw the weapon, sending adults and children scrambling for safety.

"Kids had scrapes and scratches from jumping the fence. Our hearts and chest literally hurt from seeing our girls cry and scream 'mom run faster.' I will never forget the looks in their eyes," said Ana Leyba, a mother who was attending the tournament.

"Everyone was running for their lives," Leyba said. “The girls were just looking back at us moms and saying, ‘mom, please hurry, run,’ and all I kept telling my daughter was ‘you run, you’re faster, you run, you save you, we are okay.’ And then we just kept looking back to make sure everyone was okay.”

Others took to social media to share what happened as they feared for the lives of themselves and family members.

"I've been playing, reffing, and coaching soccer for 40 years and I've never seen anything this terrifying," tweeted Jeremy Horton.

"I was with my 10- and 9-year-old who were extremely traumatized as we sprinted to the car," wrote Michael B. "I hid them in the backseat as I tried to get my 13-year-old player."

While many out-of-state teams were participating in the tournament, police confirmed that the groups involved in the fight were from the Salt Lake area. No shots were fired during the altercation.

The President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Impact United Soccer Club, Yamil Castillo, confirmed the individuals involved were spectators from one of the girls soccer teams.

“There is no excuse for this, and it is not acceptable. We are investigating the allegations,” Castillo said.

Another Impact official, Ben Gardner, said nothing like this has ever happened.

“We are all very shocked and concerned based on the severity of the issue and the nature of the escalation,” said Gardner.

While the incident remains under investigation, no spectators will be allowed at the girls games until the investigation is complete and a course of action is determined. The players will also be offered counseling if they choose to receive it.

Leyba is demanding everyone involved be held responsible.

“It is just unbelievable that a parent can, that a parent can think it is okay to pull out a gun at a child’s event like that. I just can’t even imagine thinking that is okay, even a physical altercation,” she said.

U.S. Youth Soccer, which organized the event, says the team connected to the individuals was expelled from the event.

"We are disheartened that the actions of certain individuals have made many of those who love the game question their safety," wrote U.S. Youth Soccer. "Our priority is to provide a safe game-day environment, but the limits of our influence are clear when individuals choose anger over safety. Sadly, we live in a world where a disagreement can lead to tragedy."

Police are currently investigating the incident and no charges have been filed. Anyone with videos or pictures of the altercation are being asked to contact authorities to help in the investigation.