After 16 shot at concert, Dallas police chief says city needs better event permit laws
"The event should not have been allowed to happen in the first place," said Chief Eddie Garcia
By Kaley Johnson
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
DALLAS, Texas — The chief of Dallas police emphasized the need for better oversight of event permits during a news conference Monday about a shooting at a permit-less weekend concert that left one dead and 16 injured.
Just after midnight on Sunday morning, police responded to the shooting in the Oak Cliff neighborhood, where a large, outdoor concert took place on Cleveland Road. Kealon Dejuane Gilmore, 26, had been shot in the head and was found near the concert stage, Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia said during a news conference Monday. Gilmore was pronounced dead.
Initially, police reported 11 people were injured. At Monday's conference, Garcia said 16 people were injured and taken to local hospitals. All were in stable condition, he said. The injured range in age from 13 to 29.
The shooting started when someone fired a gun into the air, Garcia said, which led to an argument. Another person fired into the crowd.
The event advertised free admission to kids 10 and under and drew a crowd of thousands, WFAA-TV reported. Fliers and social media posts described the event, which was titled the "Second Annual Epic Easter Bike Out & Field Party," as including a lineup of rap performances and admission for ATVs and horses.
Seven police officers worked the event while off duty, Garcia said, but the officers left at about 11 p.m., before the shooting happened.
The event did not have a permit or have necessary safety protocols in place, he said, and was promoted despite the fact that it did not have a permit.
"I'm suggesting the event should not have been allowed to happen in the first place," Garcia said in response to questions at Monday's news conference.
People who have events like Saturday's concert, Garcia said, need to have permits. He said his officers would be enforcing those permit laws and breaking up illegal gatherings to keep people safe. He said the department would be meeting with city leaders to determine what action could be taken from a legal perspective to better regulate events.
"It is the summer, and these events will be popping up all around the city," he said. "We want people to enjoy our city, but it should be done safely and legally. I want to warn the public that city ordinances will be enforced."
Stricter ordinances on who can promote and acquire permits for events may help prevent future violence at gatherings, Garcia said. He described Saturday's shooting as "a prime example that nonpermitted and promoted events can lead to violence."
According to Dallas's permit ordinances, events with more than 100 people need a permit if the event involves certain criteria, such as food and alcohol sales or the use of a temporary stage.
Dallas does not have an ordinance about promoters specifically, Garcia said. Garcia previously worked at the Police Department in San Jose, he said, where the city requires people to obtain a promoter's permit before they are allowed to promote an event hosted at a public venue. Promoters in San Jose have to go through a background check. Dallas does not have a strong promoter ordinance, Garcia said, and should look into creating one.
The all-day event and concert took place in a rural area, which made it more difficult to monitor, Garcia said, which was a major safety issue. There were several calls to police in the area before the shooting.
Less than two weeks ago, Dallas had another shooting at a spring break party at a party venue called The Space Dallas, according to The Associated Press. One person was killed and nine others were shot.
At the news conference Monday, Garcia pointed out more than two dozen people were victims of gun violence from these two shootings alone.
While Garcia said these shootings should not happen and "one victim is too many," he also pointed out that violent crime as a whole in Dallas is down 13%. He said gun violence is a concern for every police chief in the country, but requires more than just police work to curb the problem.
"We cannot just throw a police officer at every problem," he said.
The event organizers of "Epic Easter" posted a statement on Facebook on Sunday and said they "took the necessary steps to offer safety" but "some things were still out of our control."
"Our team did not expect a turn out of that capacity, but we truly appreciate the support of all that came & those who traveled to attend. Our prayers and deepest condolences go out to the individuals and families involved," the Facebook post said.
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