WASHINGTON >> The game between the San Diego Padres and Washington was suspended in the sixth inning tonight after a shooting outside Nationals Park that caused echoes of gunfire inside the stadium and prompted fans to scramble for safety in the dugout.
The shooting, an exchange of gunfire between people in two cars, left three people injured, according to Ashan Benedict, the Metropolitan Police Department’s executive assistant police chief. One of the people who was shot was a woman who was attending the game and who was struck while she was outside the stadium, he said. Her injuries weren’t considered life-threatening.
Two people who were in one of the cars later walked into a local hospital with gunshot wounds and were being questioned by investigators, Benedict said, and the extent of their injuries wasn’t immediately clear. Investigators were still trying to locate the second vehicle involved in the shooting.
The gunshots caused panic among fans inside the stadium, some of whom ducked for cover, hiding underneath tables and behind seats as announcers warned people to stay inside the park.
“It was just a chaotic scene,” umpire crew chief Mark Carlson told The Associated Press. “We heard what sounded like rapid gunfire. We didn’t know where it was coming from.”
The Padres had just taken the field for the bottom of the sixth when several loud pops were heard from the left field side of the ballpark.
Fans sitting in left field quickly began leaving through the center field gate. A short time later, fans along the first base side began briskly leaving their seats.
Some fans crowded into the Padres’ dugout on the third base side for cover, while sirens could be heard from outside the park.
Ted Borenstein, 26, was at the game with his girlfriend and his best friend, celebrating her birthday and “having a great time” when he heard two pops. He said the group thought it was practice for a fireworks show.
Borenstein said he quickly realized it was far more serious when he saw people in the stands start filing out and watched Padres star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. “bolt from the field.”
In the stadium’s Diamond Club, where he and his friends were, people were hiding under tables and chairs, thinking there was a shooter inside the stadium.
“People were down on the ground, kind of petrified, trying to calm down the younger kids,” he said.
“I was taken aback, I was scared,” he said.
The Nationals initially announced there had been an incident outside the stadium and posted a message on the scoreboard telling fans to remain inside the stadium.
About 10 minutes later, the team tweeted: “A shooting has been reported outside of the Third Base Gate at Nationals Park. Fans are encouraged to exit the ballpark via the CF and RF gates at this time.”
More than two dozen police cars, ambulances and fire engines were on the street outside the third base side of the stadium and a police helicopter hovered overhead.
The shooting comes as Washington, like many other cities in the U.S., is facing a rising number of violent crimes and homicides. A 6-year-old girl was killed and five other people were wounded in a shooting Friday night about three miles from Nationals Park.
Just hours before tonight’s shooting, Washington’s mayor and police chief, flanked by federal law enforcement officials to announce a $60,000 reward for information in that case.
By nightfall, they had another incident to investigate.
Arman Ramnath, 27, from nearby Arlington, Virginia, and a recent law school graduate, said he and a friend were sitting in the third base side of the Nationals Park when they heard what sounded like fireworks.
“We weren’t sure what it was. Then everyone started ducking,” Ramnath said.
Ramnath said he and his friend ended hiding behind the seats for five or more minutes. After a while people started getting up and leaving, he said, but stadium announcements told fans to wait. Eventually they were allowed to leave.
“It felt very surreal. I wasn’t really sure how to react,” Ramnath said. “I mean, you hear about it … but you never expect it to be something that could affect you.”
Police had initially said they believed one of the victims worked at the stadium, but that was not the case.
The Padres led 8-4 when the game was halted. It will be resumed Sunday afternoon, followed by the regularly scheduled game. Officials said fans should expect to see an increased police presence at Sunday’s game.
Tatis had four hits for San Diego. Ryan Zimmerman homered for Washington.