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Shooting at Billings park disrupts youth football practices

Stewart Park
Posted at 5:39 PM, Oct 05, 2022

Billings has seen a recent rash of shootings over the past few months, and the most recent one came frighteningly close to children.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday night, a 32-year-old man was shot with what police said was non-life-threatening injuries at Stewart Park near two youth football practices. Billings police arrested a 28-year-old man in the park.

For the executive director of Yellowstone Youth Football, Preston Roberts, it was his worst nightmare coming true.

"Obviously, we've never had something like that happen, but it's something that we have to think about in the world we live in, unfortunately," Roberts said.

Stewart Park is a busy place almost year-round. Whether it's Legion Baseball games at Pirtz Field or the softball league that runs throughout the summer, there are always people there. With the football season in full swing, Roberts did his best to estimate how many people were affected.

“I mean anywhere between 50 and 60 kids, and 10 to 12 coaches, and then how every many parents hang out and watch practice. There was probably over 75-80 people out here,” Roberts said.

Roberts said it's alarming that something like this could happen in an open area that is frequently filled with people, but that it may change the way practices are run at the park in the future.

"There's procedure when it happens in a school or if it happens inside a public building. But out here, it's open space. All sorts of things could happen and it's something we have to think about and have to make a plan about going forward," Roberts said.

Stewart Park is also a public place for visitors. Parents like Tanessa Takes Enemy frequently visit the area with their children.

"My daughter is two and she loves to run around and be outside, and so do I," Takes Enemy said.

Unfortunately, she now has to think twice before coming back in the future.

"A park is a public area. It's supposed to be safe, it's supposed to be something good for everyone. I just think there's too much going on and it needs to be stopped," Takes Enemy said.

For Roberts, protecting the safety of the football players in his league now has an additional element.

"We have to worry about the safety of kids on the field and stuff like that, and then to have to worry about these situations getting close to them, it's getting scary," Roberts said.