Teams, fans respond to chaos after shooting outside Nationals Park

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Spectators stand in the visiting team dugout during a stoppage in play due to an incident near the ballpark in the sixth inning of a baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the San Diego Padres, Saturday, July 17, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — When the gunshots started to echo all around Nationals Park, San Diego Padres star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. quickly thought about the team’s family members and friends in the seats.

Tatis bolted from the bench down the left field line Saturday night, helped open a gate to the stands and began ushering a group back to the dugout for shelter.

“Our family, loved ones, little kids. Feel like somebody needed to go get them,” Tatis said Sunday. “I feel like the safest place was the clubhouse and we were trying to get our families into a safe place.”

The top half of the sixth inning in the game between the Padres and Washington Nationals had just ended in front of about 33,000 fans when several shots were heard on South Capitol Street, just outside the third-base side of the stadium.

But in the moment, no one knew whether the rapid series of shots were coming from inside the ballpark or beyond.

The shooting, an exchange of gunfire between people in two cars, left three people injured — including a woman who was attending the game, according to Washington, D.C. police.

The woman was waiting for an Uber outside the park when she was struck by gunfire, according to a police report. She suffered a graze wound to her back, police officials said.

Police said the other two people who walked into a hospital with gunshot wounds were in stable condition.

Padres manager Jayce Tingler was on his way to see plate umpire Jordan Baker about a pitching change in a game San Diego led 8-4 when the shooting erupted.

“He’s like, ‘Did you hear that?’” Tingler recalled Baker saying. “I’m like, ‘yeah, I think so’ and it kind of registered what it possibly could have been, and obviously it was just a nightmare.”

A chaotic scene quickly developed. As the Padres cleared the field, some fans rushed to leave the stadium while others ducked and tried to hide, looking for cover.

“Everybody running. It was crazy. It was a panic moment. It’s just a moment you don’t want to be a part of,” said Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis.

You couldn’t figure out what was going on. If it was one or two people,” Tatis said. “I was just trying to get to the safest place and get our families.”

Tatis and teammates Manny Machado and Wil Myers drew praise for helping guide — and even carry — fans out of harm’s way.

“The situation changed immediately,” Tatis said. “There’s no longer players, fans. I feel like everybody’s just people, human beings trying to be secure.”

The game was halted then and completed on Sunday, with the Padres finishing off a 10-4 win. Washington won 8-7 in the regularly scheduled game.

Madeline Smedley, who attended the game, said once she saw players ushering people away from the field, she realized she too was in danger.

“Watching on the first base side where the Nationals players were, it looked like they were running into the stands and grabbing their families and pulling them into the dugout. And when the Padres were opening up a gate and letting some fans run into their dugout,” Smedley said. “My section had nowhere to go, if we went up the stairs, we were fleeing towards the gunshots, and we couldn’t get onto the field. So we just hunkered down in our seats.”

Despite the chaos, officials said that at no time were any fans in the stadium in danger.

“I’m, we just feel very grateful that the shooter wasn’t inside the park, because I can’t even imagine what would have happened if a shooter did get in with all the people fleeing and panicking,” Smedley said.

In a statement Sunday, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and team owner Mark Lerner said police don’t think “the Washington Nationals, the ballpark or fans were the target” of the shooting.

Officers continued to search Monday for the second vehicle involved in the incident, described as a gray Toyota Carolla with a missing hubcap on the rear driver’s side wheel and dark tinted windows displaying a Virginia temporary tag.

Police were able to question the people inside the other vehicle. So far, no charges have been filed.

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