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Dumas shooting leaves man dead, 27 others injured

Police say 2 people got in gunfight; residents describe scenes of chaos by Neal Earley | March 21, 2022 at 7:15 a.m.
Crime scene tape lies on the ground, Sunday, March 20, 2022 at the scene where a shooting that left over 20 injured and one dead occurred Saturday night in Dumas, Ark. (Staci Vandagriff/The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP)

DUMAS -- A Jacksonville man is dead and 27 others are injured after a gunfight broke out at a community event in Dumas on Saturday night.

Cameron Shaffer, 23, died after being shot outside the Fred's Store at 611 U.S. 65 South during a car show that was one of many events being held for what was supposed to be a family-friendly weekend.

On Sunday, Arkansas State Police Director Bill Bryant told reporters that investigators believe that the shooting started between two people, but he didn't offer a reason why. Police do not believe that Shaffer was a participant in the gunfight, Bryant said.

"The bottom line on this is, just two individuals got in a gunfight," Bryant during a news conference in Dumas. "There was no mass shooting intended on this."

Police arrested one person after the shooting, but it was on "unrelated charges" after the person, who matched a description of one of the suspects, fled the scene. Police are still looking for two people who are believed to have participated in the shooting, Bryant said.

At least five of the victims were children -- ages 11, 9, 8, 23 months and 19 months -- and they were transported to Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock and later released, Bryant said. A hospital spokesman told The New York Times that most were treated and released late Sunday morning.

State police are leading the investigation into the shooting and pursuing leads on potential suspects. As of Sunday afternoon, the state police did not believe the shooting to be gang-related.

"It's shocking, we have a small community, a farming community in Dumas, you know 5,000 people, and we have an incident that's multi-victims -- you don't expect that from small-town Arkansas," Bryant said.

"The shooting spree in Dumas last night at a community family event represents a total disregard of the value of life," said Gov. Asa Hutchinson in a statement Sunday.

For residents of the Delta town of about 4,000, Saturday night's shooting was a shock that brought national media attention to what was a quiet community.

The shooting occurred during a car show that was part of the annual weekend-long event called Hood-Nic, or neighborhood picnic, which also included a parade and motivational speakers.

This was the 16th year of the Hood-Nic event hosted by the Delta Neighborhood Youth Organization. The event provides family-friendly entertainment and raises money for scholarships and school supplies for underprivileged youths, according to the organization's website.

Police responded to the shooting at 6:50 p.m. Saturday with some officers, firefighters and medics already at the scene for the event.

With first responders already on the scene, police, firefighters and medics began quickly moving many victims to the nearby Delta Memorial Hospital. Several were airlifted from the scene to trauma centers in Little Rock and Pine Bluff.

"People come stumbling out of the crowd who have been shot, and we started taking care of them and taking them to the hospital," said Dumas Fire Chief Doug Weatherford, who was the car show when the shooting started.

Isierene Spinks, an elementary school nurse, was cooking at home when she first heard the news of the shooting. Spinks said she panicked when she got the call about the shooting, knowing her grandchildren were at the car show. But after she confirmed they were safe, Spinks went into "nurse mode."

As a school nurse, Spinks has only worked out of a hospital during rare emergency events. As victims were rushed to Delta Memorial Hospital in Dumas, all available medical professionals in the small town were called into service, Spinks said.

"Chaos, pandemonium," Spinks said in describing the scene at Delta Memorial Hospital.

"Because we were trying to take care of the patients, then we got family members all beating on the door and trying to rush in -- it was chaotic," she said.

Patients were triaged at the hospital in Dumas, with some being airlifted or driven by ambulance from the hospital to Little Rock and Pine Bluff trauma centers, Spinks said.

Less than 24 hours after the shooting, Dumas City Council Member Amber Brown-Madison hosted a prayer vigil for the victims at her home. With more than 30 people gathered on Brown-Madison's front yard, some spoke of how the shooting does not reflect the Dumas community.

Some speakers at the vigil led prayers for both the victims and shooters, asking God to forgive those who committed what they called an "act of terrorism."

Brown-Madison, who was at the car show when the shooting started, said she took hold of her sister and three kids and laid on the ground until the shooting stopped about 30 to 60 seconds later.

"After we heard two or three shots, I immediately grabbed my sister and my children and we just got down and we stayed down until the shots stopped," she said. "We just hit the ground. That's all we could do was hit the ground."

A master of ceremonies for the car show, who identified herself as Khanesha K. and who was at the vigil, said she was about to speak when the gunshots rang out. She described the scene as people fled from the parking lot.

"People running, shots fired -- it was just chaos," she said.

Pastor James H. Spinks, Isierene Spinks' brother, said he felt blessed as he had left the car show before the shooting started.

Cognizant that the small Delta town is now in the national media spotlight, James H. Spinks asked that his hometown not be defined by an act of wanton violence.

"We pray for God when the story gets out, let it be one that Dumas is standing firm in love, that Dumas is standing firm in unity," he said.

 Gallery: Dumas Mass Shooting


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