Organizers of the Greater Baton Rouge State Fair are weighing additional security measures for next year’s event in the wake of a fatal shooting Saturday night.
Officials are discussing potential means of improving safety, including screening fair-goers with metal detector wands, installing metal detectors at the gates and barring minors from entering the fairgrounds without a parent after a certain hour, said Cliff Barton, the fair’s chairman.
“We haven’t gotten that far in our discussions because when you have 60,000 people, if you have to scan every one of them, that’s going to really create a traffic jam,” Barton said. “I don’t exactly know how we’d implement it.”
Thousands of people were milling about the fairgrounds late Saturday when gunfire erupted about 11:30 p.m., sending panic-stricken visitors streaming for the exits.
After the crowd dispersed, authorities found Darrius Scott, 20, on the ground.
He died on the way to the hospital.
Acting on witness accounts, deputies arrested Keithdrick L. Pier, an 18-year-old with a criminal record who was out past his court-imposed curfew.
Pier, 3427 Aletha Drive, was being held Monday on one count of second-degree murder in lieu of $150,000 bail.
The shooting raised questions about security at the annual event, which had been largely devoid of violence in years past. Sheriff’s officials said about 15 off-duty deputies were on hand at the time of the shooting, hired by the fair to provide security.
Security cameras cover various areas of the fairgrounds, Barton said, but there were none in the area where the shooting occurred.
Adding more cameras to the fairgrounds to cover the entirety of the grounds is a possibility, he added.
Fair officials plan to meet at least once more before the end of the year and begin preparing in earnest in January or February for the 2014 fair.
In the meantime, Barton said he would reach out to other state and county fair officials to learn what works for them in the way of security.
Chris Giordano, director of the State Fair of Louisiana, the annual event that draws hundreds of thousands of people to Shreveport, said officials there improved security after the fatal shooting of a teenager in 2004. During a fight, a gunman opened fire amid a crowd of people outside the fair gates, killing an 18-year-old leaving the fair.
Officials have since begun using metal detector wands on fair-goers to make sure they aren’t carrying firearms.
“It’s been very effective,” Giordano said, adding there have been no incidents involving weapons since the new measures were implemented.
“Things can happen, and if you can afford to take additional security measures, it’s probably wise to do that.”
The Baton Rouge fair has a no gun policy, Barton said, and although fair officials check bags, purses and backpacks, they do not check every person entering the fairgrounds.
“Anybody can conceal a weapon and get by us because we don’t have metal detectors or scanners or anything like that,” he said.
In Shreveport, officials close the fair at 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday night, and disperse the crowds when the gates close.
“We don’t just quit allowing them in,” Giordano said. “I was kind of shocked that on a Saturday night they (fair officials in Baton Rouge) keep them in there until after midnight.”
Fair officials had closed the gates about 11:15 p.m. Saturday, but thousands of people were still inside when the shots rang out 15 minutes later.
“When you have thousands of people, of course, you would like to earn some additional money,” Giordano said, “but my experience has been that after 11, people aren’t spending that much money anyway.”
Giordano acknowledged the limitations to providing security at large venues.
“You have people who can go into an airport and shoot people and bombings at a marathon,” he said, referring to the recent shooting at Los Angeles International Airport and the Boston Marathon bombings.
“I don’t think it’s possible to be 100 percent secure, but I do think you have the responsibility to make every effort you can within your budget to take steps to minimize security threats.”
Court records shows Pier, the alleged shooter, had a history of gun-related offenses and violated his probation Saturday night in merely being at the fair past 10 p.m.
Pier pleaded guilty in August to simple burglary of an inhabited dwelling and was placed on two years supervised probation.
State District Judge Trudy White ordered Pier to perform 40 hours of community service, obtain a GED, take a tour of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, reside with his mother and keep a curfew between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., according to court documents.
The charge stemmed from an April 9 burglary in which Pier broke into a home on Kings Canyons Drive and stole a .357-caliber handgun.
About two weeks later, he was accused of discharging a firearm in the 5800 block of Saurage Drive. Three witnesses told police Pier had fired the gun and police found eight bullets in his pocket, an affidavit says.
In November 2012, Pier was booked with illegal carrying of a weapon and resisting an officer. After an officer told him to clear a roadway, Pier reached for his waistband and fled on foot, jumping a fence.
He later dropped the gun before throwing his hands up and surrendering.
Pier told police he bought the firearm for $50, according to a police report, and always carried it in his waistband because he needed protection.
One witness who implicated Pier in Saturday night’s shooting said he saw Pier remove the gun from his waist and walk up to Scott, an affidavit says.
Another witness told investigators he saw Pier turn away from Scott with the gun in his hand, leaving the dying man on the ground.