HOUSTON — The Houston Police Department has arrested a person of interest in connection to reports of shots being at the Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show late Wednesday night, throwing into question whether the chaos that followed was triggered by actual gunfire despite earlier reports that it wasn’t.
“The person of interest that we had last night, we ultimately did arrest,” Capt. D.W. Ready said.
Raymond Nathan Colbert, 17, is charged with misdemeanor evading arrest.
Investigators said officers approached Colbert because he fit a witness description. The man ran from responding officers and was detained for questioning, police said.
Despite the arrest, Ready said it is still too early in the investigation to confirm whether or not shots were fired at the carnival, causing dozens of patrons to evacuate the grounds in haste.
Investigators said officers also found one used 9 millimeter shell casing on the northwest side of the stadium toward, Kirby Drive at Westridge Street, but cannot confirm whether it is evidence that a gun was discharged. It’s possible the casing could be old or from something else, police said.
“We (do) not have eye-witness accounts,” Ready said. “What we had was reported discharge. We have no one to date that saw somebody with a gun fire a round and we still have not firearm.”
Investigators said it is possible the casing was not produced by a firearm.
“I’m not going to get into speculation on how the gun was brought in, if it was thrown over the fence — we don’t even have a gun yet,” Ready said. “So we don’t know if it was a real gun, or if it was a gun at all, or if it was some hybrid of a gun like a pin gun, or something like that. We don’t know. All that’s under investigation.”
The department is still reviewing surveillance footage.
There were no reports of anyone being injured.
The latest development gives new meaning to accounts from those inside the carnival at the time of the alleged incident. While some patrons were seemingly unaware, others describe moments of fear and chaos.
“We were actually waiting in line to get her face painted,” carnival goer Kayla Phillips said. “We just saw a whole bunch of crowd just running, and we were like ‘well, is it just children running? Or what’s going on?’And then we saw more people, who were like ‘there was a shooting! There was a shooting!’ And we were just looking. I was in shock. And then a girl ran into me.”
Mark Miller was on a carnival ride when he saw dozens of people racing to the exit. He captured the scene from overhead on his cell phone and later posted it to Facebook. The video shows families running like a herd of cattle.
Rodeo Houston issued a shelter-in-place while several law enforcement agencies, including the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety searched the area, officials said. After about an hour, rodeo attendees and staff were given the all clear.
“Everybody was running,” Phillips said. “There was like nobody directing us where to go. It was like a traumatic experience. And there was little kids there. So it was really scary for all the families that were out here.”
There has never been a shooting at the event and officers suspect a loud sound may have been misinterpreted as gunfire, Ready said.
“There are a lot of loud noise out here at the carnival with the talent at the rodeo. It could be that someone heard something really loud as they passed something and reported that to us,” Ready said.
The captain said the hysteria, such as that of Wednesday night, is fairly common at the rodeo.
<< SWIPE LEFT << It was a CRAZY NIGHT at the Houston Rodeo! No, NOT THE FUN KIND. Video taken overhead captured the moments parents and children high tailed it out of there after REPORTS of shots fired at the carnival. Better off safe than sorry? @rodeohouston #fightorflight #rodeo #houstonrodeo #rodeohouston #hlsr
“Sometimes they do run, people in the rodeo or in the carnival, but they run because sometimes there kids are running after each other. We get reports of people running from time to time, but that in itself isn’t cause for concern,” Ready said.
HPD officials are confident in the carnival staff’s process of inspecting visitors for prohibited weapons and other items.
With guest safety in mind, HLSR President and CEO Joel Cowley said event organizers have considered making a adjustments to its current screening process, but nothing is set in stone.
“If anything needs to be done differently, it will be done [Wednesday],” Cowley said.
“They do a really good job of checking people, and all their personal effects as they come in through the gates,” Ready said.
Rodeo Houston officials posted the following statement on Twitter regarding the incident:
“The safety of our Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo guests is always our highest priority. Show security is staffed by officers from the Houston Police Department, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, and the Texas Department of Public Safety. HPD has investigated the incident reported at NRG Park Wednesday night and has stated that they have found no weapons, have no suspects in custody and there are no reports of injuries. As a precaution, Show officials instructed people to shelter in place for a short time until officers determined that conditions were safe. We will continue working with HPD, HCSO and Texas DPS to monitor the situation.”