COLUMBIA — Two stabbings and a large crowd that had to be broken up closed Douglass Park early Thursday night.
Shortly before 7, Columbia police received a call that there was a fight in the park's shelter between two people and a weapon might be involved, a police news release said. When officers arrived less than a minute later, they found no fight. They did find a lot of fresh blood and a broken bottle in the shelter and a lot of people near the shelter, none of them willing to talk.
Seven minutes after officers were sent out, a brief 911 call came in from a man who said he was at the hospital. Police then learned from the MU Hospital emergency room that two men with stab wounds were being treated, the release said. One man, who was believed to have been stabbed multiple times in the back and abdomen, received emergency treatment and was unavailable for police to interview him. The second man was believed to have been stabbed in the arms and would not speak to police.
Both men were admitted to the hospital. Their conditions were not immediately known, but Lt. Scott Young said none of their injuries was life threatening.
Police are not releasing their identities and said it isn't clear if the men are victims, suspects or both.
Back at the park Thursday evening, crew members from a fire truck sprayed down the shelter area, which had been cordoned off by police tape.
“Things calmed down after that,” said Tracy Edwards, a First Ward Ambassador. “Little League baseball got started back up, and people were just relaxing.”
But later on, a fight between youths at the corner of Ninth and Walnut as the Twilight Festival wound down spilled north four blocks along Park Avenue near Douglass Park.
Edwards estimated 100 to 150 people ended up behind Douglass High School between 8:45 p.m. and 9 p.m., when Columbia police were called to break up the fight. Officers dispersed the crowd.
Young said there were reports of a person wielding a gun during the incident. However, police could not find the gun as the crowd streamed away.
In the news release on the disturbance, Columbia police said, "Due to the large number (of people in the park), many of them unsupervised juveniles, two disturbances, and the prospect of additional armed violence, the park was closed and all subjects present were removed." The park was open again on Friday morning.
Young could not say if the two incidents were related. He did say this wasn’t the first time Douglass Park has been shut down as a result of rowdy groups causing problems.
Residents were visibly unsettled by the affair as they watched cars roll through and out of the area.
Edwards said that incidents like those on Thursday night are often caused by people who do not live near the park.
“Everybody’s coming into this neighborhood,” he said. “They come from outside and fight, then they get back in their cars and drive on home.”
Edwards said residents are slowly becoming frustrated by an inaccurate perception of their neighborhood, namely that violence is started within the neighborhood.
“The First Ward always gets a bad rap,” he said. “People don’t have a good idea at what the situation is sometimes.”