2 teenagers injured, third person injured

When Aisha Tahir went to buy her kids a funnel cake at the end of a long day at Six Flags Great America, she saw things strewn about in the kitchen of the food shack. People were hiding under the windows.

They feared for their lives after a gunman shot two people in Gurnee Amusement Park parking lot Sunday night.

“The way people were panicking made us feel like the shooter was nearby. And when we saw the police entering the park, we thought the shooter was loose somewhere inside,” said the resident of Kenosha.

The shooting was not random and appeared to be targeted, Gurnee Police said. No arrests had been made as of Monday and police were still investigating, according to Gurnee Police spokesman Shawn Gaylor.

But the gunfire has caused chaos, confusion and fear among hundreds of park visitors.

Many fled to the same parking lot where shots were fired. Others jumped fences and tried to break through locked exit doors to escape.

The bullets hit a 17-year-old Aurora boy in the upper thigh and a 19-year-old Appleton, Wis. woman in her lower leg, police said. Both victims were treated at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville for injuries that are not considered life-threatening and were released Sunday evening, police said. A third victim who suffered a shoulder injury refused further treatment.

After noticing the visitors sheltering at the funnel-shaped cake stand, Tahir saw people running and heard shouting about the shooter. Her family ran to a bathroom, where an employee guided them to a hiding place before escorting them out of the park 20 minutes later.

She lied to her children while they were in hiding. The commotion was over the fireworks, she told them. But the kids heard people screaming about the shooter.

Tahir worries that they will go back to school in two weeks. She knows no place is safe, she says. The 32-year-old mother had previously spoken with her children about what to do if a gunman attacked their school. They must be prepared wherever they go, she said.

“I feel helpless. I don’t know what to do to make lawmakers understand that gun violence must stop,” she said.

Authorities said a white sedan pulled into the Six Flags parking lot around 7:50 p.m. and headed toward the park entrance. Gurnee Police said more than one person got out of the sedan “and started shooting at another person in the parking lot”. After shooting several times, they “got back in the white sedan and quickly left the area,” according to a press release from Gurnee Police.

“This was not an active shooter incident inside the park,” police wrote.

Eddie Cardenas was with his fiancée and their three children when his mother-in-law called. She had left the park for the car to get a head start on food preparation.

“Stay inside the park. There is a shooter here. There is a shooter here. There are bodies falling,” she cried into the phone after watching the shooting unfold.

Shocked by the news, Cardenas and his fiancée began planning. But then dozens of people started running, Cardenas said.

“There is a shooter! There is a shooter! There is a shooter! he remembered having heard.

The couple grabbed their children – a 7-year-old boy, a 5-year-old boy and a 5-month-old girl – and started running. They took shelter behind Raging Bull’s steel roller coaster and took off again moments later.

Their stroller was moving too slowly, so Cardenas threw it away and slung her 5-year-old over her shoulder. His fiancée also left a handbag. Her 7-year-old son ran ahead and nearly got lost in the confusion. Cardenas saw the police with guns. In a video he shared with the Tribune, people shouted and shot children.

Outside the park, Cardenas reunited with the nearly 30 family members he had joined for the trip to Greater America. He saw scared uncles waiting for their teenagers, who had split up earlier to go on rides.

“We didn’t know,” the 30-year-old Joliet player said. “It was a huge panic.”

Her 7-year-old son said he never wanted to go to Six Flags again.

Her 5-year-old tossed her shiny plastic toy guns into a trash bag on Monday morning.

“They’re not toys,” he told his parents, according to Cardenas.

His wife has ordered the children, who will soon be returning to school, five-pound backpack shields.

After the shooting, the family took a moment to pray in the car. One of Cardenas’ children thanked God the family wasn’t killed.

Cardenas began to cry.

“The world we live in, where our 5 and 7 year olds have to worry about shootings and shootings and death, it’s scary. It’s a really scary world,” he said .

To protect Six Flags Great America, authorities are using security cameras inside the park and in the parking lot, a Six Flags spokesperson said. Uniformed and plainclothes patrols monitor the park, which has a Gurnee Police Department substation on site.

“Six Flags devotes our greatest amount of time, talent and resources to safety and security,” Rachel Kendziora, spokeswoman for Six Flags, told the Tribune.

“Layers of preventative measures inside and outside the park are in place for the protection of guests and team members. … We are extremely grateful to our crew members who responded in a professional manner to care for our guests, and to the Gurnee Police Department for their continued presence and commitment to Six Flags Great America,” Kendziora said.

Great America Amusement Park is 18 miles from Highland Park, where a mass shooter opened fire on a crowd gathered for a 4th of July paradekilling seven and injuring dozens.

Tane Walker was on a Highland Park parade float when the shooting happened. He had left Six Flags earlier in the afternoon on Sunday, hours before crowds in Chicago’s northern suburbs again fled in fear of gun violence this summer.

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Worries about what might happen if a gunman tried to attack the park crossed his mind earlier on Sunday, the 16-year-old said. He doesn’t feel safe leaving the house or going anywhere in public, he added.

Walker will soon return to class at the school where he and his family received trauma counseling after the Highland Park shooting.

“No place is truly safe until changes are made,” he said.

Chicago Tribune editor Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas and freelancer Cliff Ward contributed.


Twitter @jakesheridan_

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