Lebanon Police are investigating after a fight broke out at the Wilson County Fair Saturday night.
Shortly after 10 p.m. Saturday, two groups of juveniles got into a physical altercation in the midway area of the fairgrounds, according to LPD Chief Mike Justice. As officers and Wilson County Sheriffs deputies responded to the scene, panic set in with the surrounding crowd, who then began to run from the area.
“During this, several individuals, with malicious and negligent intent, [started] yelling words that to an innocent bystander, would lead them to believe that persons with weapons were shooting in that area,” Chief Justice said in a statement. “This caused an immediate panic to those nearby and people began to frantically flee the area.”
Justice said what followed was misinformation spreading quickly on social media with many people saying they either heard gunshots or saw weapons.
The immediate area was locked down to investigate further. Four juveniles were identified as the primary aggressors and were removed from the area and later charged with disorderly conduct. Justice said three others were identified, through facial recognition software utilized during the Fair, as instigators in inciting fear and that the investigation may lead to potential charges against them.
The area of the incident was reopened after 25-30 minutes, allowing Fair operations to continue.
Police have interviewed dozens of witnesses since the incident, and though some reported what they believed to be gunshots, LPD and the Sheriff’s Office have not received a viable report of someone seeing a weapon firsthand. No weapons were present on the suspects at the Fair.
“We have reviewed hours of video footage from our surveillance system, which encompasses all areas of the grounds, and we have not found any evidence of weapons present,” said Justice.
Though the altercation was described by police as a “youth fight,” the panic among fairgoers was very real.
“Our thoughts go out to those who were in genuine fear and traumatized during the incident,” said Justice. “Our thanks go to not only the officers who responded quickly to mitigate the situation, but the countess other responders and volunteers who joined in to protect fairgoers and officers alike.”
Justice encourages fairgoers to report anything they feel is suspicious or abnormal.
“If you see something, say something.”