Victims: Police were warned Coastal Empire Fair shooting was com - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Victims: Police were warned Coastal Empire Fair shooting was coming


A police safety alert warned of gunfire days before the 2012 Coastal Empire Fair shooting, according to a lawsuit filed by three of the shooting victims, and an officer wearing a flak jacket convinced one family to turn away at the gates hours before shots rang out on the midway.

Marquis Mason, Tamika Williams and Keanna Heyward were among the seven people shot Nov. 3, 2012 at the fairgrounds on Savannah's west side. All seven survived their injuries.

Six men were arrested in connection with the shooting, which police say was gang-related and retaliation for a fatal shooting on River Street two months earlier.

Brent Savage represents those three victims in a negligence lawsuit filed last year in Chatham County Superior Court. Savage said the Exchange Club of Savannah, which organizes the fair as a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club and other charities, should've warned all fairgoers of the threat of danger.

"I just think people have the right to decide," Savage said.

Savage gave WTOC a police advisory, issued before the shooting, warning that a tipster said a gunfight was coming.

Savage also provided a sworn affidavit from a couple who said that more than two hours before the shooting, they were warned to stay away by a flak jacket-clad officer near the fairgrounds. The officer said he was wearing that flak jacket for his own protection, according to the affidavit.

Savannah-Chatham Metro Police were hired off-duty to work the fair. The lawsuit takes aim at the Exchange Club, not the police department, because officers were working for the club that night.

According to police reports, a fairgoer spotted an armed man in the crowd before the shooting began.

Savage said the fair should've followed its own written policy and announce on a bull horn that the fair was being shut down, "because of a potentially dangerous power problem."

"It makes a lot of sense what they said in their policy," Savage said. "But they just didn't follow through with it."

Fair officials aren't commenting.

Their attorney, Charles McDaniel, Jr. said Thursday that it would be premature to discuss details of the case.

"It is currently in the middle of discovery," he said. "And not all the facts have been ascertained. In addition, there are legal issues yet to be resolved."

But Savage said fairgoers should've been warned.

"I don't think that the police, off duty or on duty, who try hard, ought to make all these decisions," he said. "Just let the public know. Let them know if they want to come on a night where there's a potential gunfight."

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