PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence police are looking for a suspect after shots were fired into the air at PVDFest over the weekend, sending festivalgoers scrambling in panic.
The gunshots went off on Washington Street near Union Street around 11 p.m. Saturday, when scores of people were in the street celebrating the city’s signature music and arts festival. The street was closed to vehicle traffic as part of the festival.
Video provided to Eyewitness News by Robert Gott shows the suspect firing the shots into the air, and people are seen running away from the scene.
“I wasn’t quite sure what to do,” Gott said. “Most people were afraid for their lives.”
Madeleine List, who was at the festival with friends and also works as a reporter for The Providence Journal, said she was standing on Washington Street when the shots rang out.
“We heard the shots go off, and then we just saw a huge crowd of people running at us. People were screaming, very panicked,” List said. She and a friend ran down an alley, but got stuck when they reached chain-link construction fencing.
“Some people were trying to climb over the chain-link fence. We were just kind of huddled down on the ground, my friend and I, with our backs to the Strand building,” List said. She said someone eventually ripped through the fencing and she and her friend were able to escape the area.
Police said no one was hit by gunfire. No suspect was in custody as of Monday.
A police report says officers patrolling on Washington Street were able to pick up and preserve five shell casings while pedestrians were running in the area.
Lindsay Lague, a police spokesperson, said 40 to 50 police officers and supervisors were working the festival on Saturday night. She said about 15 arrests were made over the course of the weekend event, including for disorderly conduct, eluding police and a domestic incident.
One person also reported being stabbed at the event, according to a police report. The reported victim went to Rhode Island Hospital with a laceration and said he had been stabbed at PVDFest.
According to the report, the victim declined to cooperate with police.
Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré said the festival was overall a “peaceful” event, but called the shots-fired incident “disturbing” for the festivalgoers in the area.
“We looked to see if we could’ve done anything to prevent it, but with thousands people in an open space it’s pretty difficult to eliminate all weapons,” Pare said.
He said the festival had “layered” security with both police officers and private security. He also said EMTs were deployed on bikes and ATVs in order to prevent an issue that happened last year with am ambulance having trouble getting through the crowd.
Paré said an after-action report is always done after big events to help plan for safety the following year. He also said people should not be worried about coming downtown for the Pride Parade this coming weekend.
“We have no concerns for the safety of this upcoming event,” Pare said. “We continue to welcome people into the city. It’s a festive and safe environment, and we’ll continue to improve on that.”