A scare during a football game Friday night at Oakleaf High School led to the pause of play and panic among fans.
It appeared that an unrelated social media threat and students “trying to play a practical joke” contributed to the chaotic scene that unfolded at the end of the third quarter of the homecoming game, according to Clay County school leaders.
About 9 p.m., the football field and stands cleared as people ran out of the stadium.
“I was getting peanuts and out of nowhere I just heard a bunch of people running,” one witness told News4Jax. “I was scared. I ran for my life.”
The Clay County Sheriff’s Office told News4Jax that someone had called 911 to falsely report that shots had been fired, but school police at the stadium said shots were never fired. Clay County deputies responded as a safety precaution and the game resumed about 9:40 p.m., with Oakleaf High getting a 26-7 win over Ed White High School.
But during the news briefing about 11 p.m., Clay County school leaders said 911 calls were made after students started running out of the stadium.
“The 911 calls actually came in after the fact, after the students started running out of the stadium,” Clay County District Schools Police Department Lt. Steve Mills said. “I was on the property. There was no gunfire heard.”
Clay County District Schools Director of Operations, Safety and Security John Ward said there was already heightened anxiety due to a broad threat on Facebook Live, which is why school leaders believe disorder ensued when a group of students started running toward the gate.
“[A sergeant] heard students say, ‘Run,'” Mills said. “You got to understand, the rumor was floating around the whole stadium tonight about these threats. And so I think some of the students prayed on that.”
Deputies say people were running out of the stadium at one point in a panic. They say some people might have gotten injured bc of the rush. I see paramedics treating someone on the track. @wjxt4 pic.twitter.com/qvVS2z7Qxt
— Corley Peel (@WJXT_CorleyPeel) September 21, 2019
Though the threat was not directly related to Oakleaf High, according to Ward, school police had stepped up security measures at the homecoming game.
“Due to this threat, we increased, our school board police department, increased from a normal six-officer presence to a nine-officer presence,” Ward said.
Clay County Superintendent Addison Davis stressed that there was not a weapon on campus and there was never an immediate threat.
“The only threat was a potential action — that was immature by a couple of youngsters that ran into a gate and created disorder. From my side, it’s sad that we have to experience this these days,” Davis said. “As community, we have to get better. In a sense, we think causing disorder and causing disruption is amusing. It is not.”
School leaders said there were three minor injuries reported and there is an active investigation into the scare.
“I just want the students to know these Facbook rumors have to stop. They have to stop. Cut it out,” Mills said. “Like the superintendent said, we can’t even come out on a Friday night and have a good time because these Facebook rumors get around, and a few students trying to play a practical joke.”
The Knights were hosting Commanders on what was already a somber night in Clay County. Before the game kicked off at 7 p.m., there was a moment of silence in memory of Oakleaf High student Keondre Moss, who was killed in a car crash earlier this week.