EVERETT — Three days after gunfire outside of a crowded football game at Mariner High School, those attending a city-sponsored meeting were looking for answers and assurances.
The Friday night incident, which rekindled worries about gang violence in the area, has prompted the Mukilteo School District to make some changes ahead of this week’s games.
About 100 people attended Monday’s meeting, hosted by the city of Everett at Explorer Middle School. Mariner is in an unincorporated part of the county south of Everett. The gunshots were investigated by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. The Everett event gave an opportunity for parents and students to share their fears and ask questions.
Violence among kids and young adults has been a concern inside and outside of Everett’s city limits.
At the meeting, which was planned before Friday’s gunfire, Mayor Cassie Franklin and members of the Everett Police Department outlined the city’s plan for reducing youth violence. Last year, Everett experienced a “significant increase” in youth gang and firearm violence, Franklin said.
But when it came time for questions, nearly everyone who spoke criticized the lack of communication from the school and law enforcement in the moments after the shots were fired.
Reilli Hopfauf, an Everett High School senior, said she was watching her boyfriend play for the Mariner Marauders football team when she heard the shots.
What happened after was chaos.
Some of those at the game reported the announcer said, “Hit the deck!” over the loudspeaker. Hopfauf said she didn’t hear anything.
Hopfauf said she started running as she heard cheers turn into screams. She wasn’t sure if she was going away from the gunshots or toward them. As she hid between a car and a tree, she texted her mom.
“Mom there’s shooting. I’m hiding. I’m so scared. I love you,” she wrote.
At Monday’s meeting, Hopfauf broke into tears as she talked about how worried she was for her boyfriend.
No one was injured from the gunshots, according to the sheriff’s office. A fight had broken out in the parking lot and moved up the street before someone fired five or six rounds. Investigators reportedly found shell casings nearby at the 12200 block of Fourth Avenue W, but no suspects.
Though the sheriff’s department does not know whether the incident was gang-related, last year’s uptick in Everett has the city rolling out new programs to address youth violence.
The city’s plans include forming a new police gang response unit and launching two new programs focusing on preventing and intervening in youth gang involvement. Those programs will be known as PIVOT and PAY.
Those are acronyms for Positive Intervention Outreach Team, and Pathways for Adolescent Youth programs. They will be led by Officer Anthony Fletcher. They will identify students who are at high-risk of gang involvement and connect them and their families with resources. This includes finding positive role models for the students, rewarding good behavior and providing passes to youth clubs.
The new gang unit will include a sergeant and five officers.
Andre Graham, from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County, is also joining the team.
“I believe by identifying the youth early and guiding them to appropriate services and helping them make positive choices, and maybe in some cases life-altering choices, that will reduce and eliminate their interest or desire to be involved in any gang,” he said at the meeting.
After the city’s presentation, Friday’s gunfire was still top of mind for many attendees.
Patrice Porko said she was concerned that the school did not have an appropriate response ready for when shots are fired at a football game. She was at the game, chaperoning the school’s band, when she heard orders to take cover.
Porko felt vulnerable.
“I was stuck in the bleachers. There was nowhere to go even if we knew a way out,” she said.
Some suggested more active shooter drills.
Pat Hegarty, executive director of secondary education for the Mukilteo district, said he would take their feedback to a debriefing Tuesday.
“That’s our affirmation to you that this is something we’re taking really, really seriously,” he said. “This is heartfelt.”
Their concerns were relayed at the Tuesday meeting, in which the district reviewed its response to the incident.
“There was a breakdown in communication,” said Andy Muntz, district spokesman.
He said school staff and parent volunteers at the game Friday will wear vests to make them more visible during the game. They will also have walkie-talkies to communicate.
And announcers will receive better direction on how to handle emergencies in the future, Muntz said. While there was already emergency protocol in place for announcers, it wasn’t followed, he said.
Porko said she hopes either the school or the sheriff’s department has a plan next time she comes to a football game.
“We’ll be back there,” she said. “We have to be. That’s our home stadium.”
So will Hopfauf, the Everett High School senior. She said she wants to continue supporting her boyfriend, but she is unsure if she will feel safe.
Her mom, Corrine Kunstorf, said she’s worried, too.
“She’s already told me I have to go to all the games,” she said.
Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; email@example.com; Twitter: @lizzgior.
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