Little league teams have pulled out of the North Carolina state championship tournament after gunshots erupted during a weekend game, their organizers said Monday in social media posts.
“Our 8U Machine Pitch team had to withdraw from the State Championship tournament in Wilson, North Carolina,” read Wilmington Little League’s Monday announcement about its team for players 8 years old and under. “We (along with coaches and parents) felt it was best for the boys given the circumstances.”
“All players and families are safe and home at this time,” it states.
Pulling South Durham Little League’s 8U Orange All Star team and the 9U All Star team from the tournament “was not a decision made lightly,” that league said Monday in a statement, “but it also was not a difficult decision for us to make.
“The events were too traumatic for us to even consider having the teams return to Wilson to play,” it said.
The aborted youth sports seasons offer yet another example of how gun violence so often interrupts American life in places traditionally seen as safe, from schools to supermarkets to a holiday parade route. A spate of gunfire this spring near a youth baseball diamond in South Carolina sent players and coaches to the ground for safety; no one was hurt.
On Sunday at Gillette Athletic Complex in North Carolina, “three shots were fired,” Wilson Police said in a Monday news release.
There is no evidence anyone at the ballpark was intentionally targeted by the gunfire, they said, adding an unoccupied vehicle in a lot near Field 2 was stuck.
At first, “two vehicles were identified as potentially being involved in the incident,” by parents and witnesses, police said. Officers learned their occupants “were attendees” leaving a game and not involved in the shooting.
Little League International, a non-profit that organizes youth baseball, said it was aware of what had happened and was offering its support.
“Little League International is aware of the frightening incident that occurred nearby during a Special Games tournament for 7- to 8-year-olds in Wilson … We are relieved that no one was injured, and it is extremely unfortunate and horrifying that the players, families, and volunteers were exposed to this ordeal.
“Little League International staff has begun outreach to local Wilson … area officials, and we will continue to provide support to our volunteers, as they navigate this situation,” the group said in a statement.
Police have no suspect description, a police spokesperson told CNN, and continue to investigate with North Carolina State Highway Patrol and the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office.
“It was a very difficult day for everyone involved,” the Wilmington Little League post read.
“Please keep them all in your thoughts and prayers as the events that surrounded this unexplainable action have not only denied the boys an opportunity that they earned and deserve but it also undoubtedly robbed them of the amazing experience and memories that All Star Season brings.”
“Tragic events such as these are happening far too often in our country,” South Durham league leaders wrote. “We too often think it won’t happen to us. Today, it happened for 7 and 8 year old Little League players, for children and coaches we all know. It was a terrifying situation for all involved. Video shows coaches bravely covering players with their bodies and crawling off baseball fields. No child or parent should ever experience anything like this.
“Our hearts are heavy tonight.”