Wilcox Co. Schools seeing more safety measures after away game shooting incident

Video from WALB
Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 5:50 PM EDT
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ABBEVILLE, Ga. (WALB) - Some south Georgians said they are still stunned by the video of people running for their lives as shots rang out Friday night during a high school football game.

The shooting incident happened during the high school football scrimmage game between Wilcox County High Patriots and Johnson County High Trojans.

Wilcox County Schools Superintendent Dale Garnto said for school sporting event home games, enhanced security protocols will be enforced.

”I mean, our plans are to have more enhanced security in place to protect our fans, and our players and our staff,” Garnto said.

Although this incident didn’t happen at Wilcox County, Garnto wants to ensure visitors, staff, students and parents are aware that school safety is at the forefront of what they do daily. The superintendent said they are adding an extra security officer, in addition to their school resource officer.

Joshua Russell, 27, was arrested for opening fire at the game. Deputies said the shooting happened adjacent to the Lovett Stadium during a scrimmage football game. The lone gunman was caught immediately after it happened, according to law enforcement.

Students who attended the game told WALB News 10 they were terrified.

“It was honestly one of a kind. No one expected it, It was just a scrimmage game that we all came together for. Both teams’ cheerleaders even prayed before the game together. No one expected a gun to be fired in a high school football game. It was an experience we all didn’t want to have to endure,” read one message sent to WALB News 10.

Wilcox County High School Athletic Director Josh Owens said he initially thought it was fireworks until he realized after the fourth round, that it sounded like a gun. Owens said this happened just before the fourth quarter.

“We were more prepared for it maybe because last year, I think I seen it on film where Dublin and Swainsboro had a similar situation. Turns out, it was just fireworks. Our players, when it happened they hit the ground, once the shots quit, the coaches went to get them to the locker room and get behind concrete bleachers and walls,” Owens said.

Russell was charged with multiple counts of aggravated assault, multiple counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, reckless conduct, cruelty to children, carrying a weapon within a school zone, discharging a firearm near a highway or street, criminal attempt to commit a felony, inciting a riot and several traffic violations.

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