FERGUSON, MO (KTVI) – Shots fired near a first graders’ soccer game marred a Saturday afternoon in Ferguson today. Parents attending a CYC (Catholic Youth Council) soccer game between six and seven year old girls found themselves scrambling to protect their children when gunfire erupted along Chambers Road near Elizabeth about 12:20pm.
“We looked up and could clearly see the gunman and the gunfight going on right in front of us,” said Kelly Manno, coach of the St. Ferdinand Falcons. She had six girls on the field playing a team from St. Sabina parish and six girls on the bench with Coach Rob Kraatz. “It was just chaotic, “said Kraatz adding the first thought was too sure the kids were safe.
Parents on the opposite side of the field scooped up children and ran to a small concession stand. The playing field is part of the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta School and Church. A church member who was running the stand ran into the school gym to warn volleyball players to stay inside and lock the building.
Manno said she heard two rounds of gunfire. She and the other coaches tipped over team benches and huddled behind them on the ground. Once she felt able to get to the concession stand building she found it packed with “parents and kids just sobbing, sobbing uncontrollably.” Other adults were sprawled on the field on top of children trying to protect them.
A neighbor in the 500 block of Chambers heard the gunfire as well. Ladisha Clay said she believes it followed a morning argument among some young men that occurred outside a home. Clay lives across Chambers from the church.
Manno said she and the other coaches had some misgivings about playing at the field in Ferguson, but had been assured it was not near the area where violent protests occurred in August. “Of course it is not anyone’s fault. No one could have predicted that there would be a gunfight in the middle of a soccer game,” she said.
But the team will not return to Blessed Teresa for any more games. “They are going to have to find somewhere else for us to play,” Manno said. “I’m absolutely broken hearted that my kids at this young an age have to see something like that. My kids are doing okay, but some of the kids are absolutely terrified.” She added the St. Louis Archdiocese may provide counseling to the students.
Ferguson police responded to the scene, but did not return calls from FOX2 for information about the shooting incident. One parent complained officers were slow to reach the families at the soccer field.