BILLINGS — It was a frightening Monday night for hundreds of families when shots rang out on the Midway of the Montana Fair at MetraPark. A flood of people poured out of the gates while others hid on the fairgrounds.
“You could see like the explosion, you could see the guy going down, you could see the gun quickly coming out,” said witness Jenalynn Palmieri on Tuesday.
Palmieri, 18, was waiting in line for a carnival ride when she says a confrontation began just a few feet away. She watched as a man said something to a group of guys. When that man walked away, she said the group of men followed.
“When they were about to jump them, the guy quickly pulled out a gun and shot them,” Palmieri said.
What ensued after was chaos.
“And then everybody started screaming, 'Gun!' and running,” said Roman Lestrange, another witness. He said he heard several shots before hysteria hit the crowds.
“We would have been trampled if a carnie hadn’t pulled us away,” Lestrange said.
He said carnival workers rushed into action, pulling kids and elderly folks out of the way so they wouldn’t get hurt.
A couple of his friends were waiting by the bumper cars when they saw a stampede of kids running toward them.
“As they’re running past us, they’re yelling, ‘you guys got to get the eff out of here, there were gunshots,” said another witness, Ewen Barker.
Logan Brost and Baker said several fair goers passed out before their eyes, overcome by shock. They feel lucky they weren’t in the cross hairs.
“We were at that area a few minutes before that happened, 10, maybe 20. If we hadn’t left when we did, that could have been us,” Brost said.
While many fled the fair, others hid for safety. Haley Delaware was bartending at the Super Joe’s Dome when shots were fired.
“I just remember seeing tons of people running out. I was like ‘oh my god’. People were just shouting,” Delaware said.
She and her coworkers hid in a liquor shed behind the dome, trying to stay quiet.
“We were all kind of just praying that what was happening wasn’t as terrible as we were kind of picturing it was,” Delaware said.
As fair-goers raced toward the exits, Yellowstone County sheriff’s deputies rushed toward the gunfire, eventually chasing a man into a pond where he was apprehended. That man was later released without any charges.
“The MontanaFair should be somewhere you can go and have fun and ride rides and not be in fear of getting a loose bullet into you,” Palmieri said.
Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder said one person suffered a leg injury from the shooting. Authorities believe the people involved in the shooting all knew each other, and it was not a random event