Police: Parent Displayed Rifle at Utah Youth Soccer Tournament

A youth soccer tournament in Salt Lake City, Utah, was disrupted this weekend when a parent displayed a firearm, according to authorities. Local police are still trying to uncover the details of the situation that sent players, parents and other spectators running for cover.

At the U.S. Youth Soccer Tournament at the Salt Lake City Regional Athletic Complex on Saturday, Sept. 11, either two groups of parents or two parents became involved in an argument, said Salt Lake Police Sgt. Mark Wian. The argument continued until, according to witnesses, one man went to his car and retrieved a rifle, said Wian in a statement.

Further details—including how the man held the rifle, whether he brought it from the parking lot to the playing fields, and whether he pointed it at anyone—remained under investigation as of Monday. There were no shots fired, injuries or arrests made, according to local news.

However, the incident did incite panic in the crowd. Some people in the crowd began shouting “active shooter,” while others sprinted for cover behind cars in the parking lot. Still others jumped the fence of the athletic complex and took shelter in nearby homes, according to social media posts.

“One of our defenders was coming onto the field and yelling at everyone to start running because there was an active shooter,” said 16-year-old soccer player Nate Shepherd. “Everyone was just super, super scared and didn’t know what to do.”

Shepherd’s mother, Erin Shepherd, relayed the same sentiment of confusion, saying she wasn’t sure whether to lie flat in the grass or to run and hide. “No one really knew what was going on, and you didn’t know what to do other than just run,” she said.

“I’ve been playing, reffing, and coaching soccer for 40 years, and I’ve never seen anything this terrifying,” read a tweet from Jeremy Horton.

Wian said that 9-1-1 dispatchers began receiving calls about the incident at 2:32 p.m. local time. Officers arrived by 2:47 p.m. and had made contact with the man holding the gun by 2:51 p.m.

U.S. Youth Soccer released a statement after the incident:

"We are both saddened by the traumatic experience for all involved, but also extremely proud of staff and volunteers who worked quickly to help local authorities defuse the situation, remove the individual(s) involved and assuage the concerns of teams and players,” the statement read. “The team associated with the individuals involved has been expelled from the remainder of this weekend's event.”

“We are disheartened that the actions of certain individuals have made many of those who love the game question their safety. 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.”

The association also said that it may place additional sanctions on the parents or the team in question in the near future.

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning and Campus Security and Life Safety. He can be reached at [email protected]

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