Students recall shooting at Washington Co. Fair

Interrupted by the sound of gunshots, the exhibits and celebrations at the Washington County Fair were brought to an abrupt stop. At roughly 10:30 PM, on Friday, August 26, Fayetteville PD officers responded to the fairgrounds that were surrounded by chaos. 

Senior Megan Fantinel and junior Quinn Benham were both at the fairgrounds Friday night when the events transpired. Fantinel and Benham were at the fair with separate groups of friends. 

When Fantinel and her friends first heard the gunshots, they were leaving the fairgrounds and heading to the parking lot. 

Benham was waiting in line to get on the “Sizzler” ride and taking a picture of their friend posing with a snow cone when a different friend started commanding them to run.

 At first, Benham thought their friends were telling them to run because someone had thrown up on one of the rides, but after they had gotten a significant distance away. 

“They heard them before me and they were just like…run,” Benham said.  

Even from the parking lot, Fantinel could hear the sound loudly. Gunshots were Fantinel’s first thought, but she didn’t want to jump too harshly to conclusions.  Although she thought it was most likely a firework, once she saw people running toward the parking lot she knew for sure she had heard gunshots.

When Benham first got to the car and caught her breath, the very next thing she did was call their mother. 

 She also saw people screaming and hopping fences while there were more rounds being fired. Benham was one of the people sprinting out to the parking lot from the fairgrounds. 

“The thought of a gunshot did come in my head first,” Fantinel said, “but I didn’t want to assume anything until I knew for sure.” 

Fantinel and her friends still weren’t sure what exactly was going on until they analyzed the situation for a good 5-10 seconds.

“Until we knew for sure what the situation was,” Fantinel said. “That’s when we started running to the car.”

Megan kept a fairly clear head and even helped get her friends to the car. Some of her other friends were starting to panic. She put all of her friends in front of her to make sure none of them were left behind. 

“You can say I went into a kind of survival mode,” Fantinel said, “I didn’t let any emotions hit me.” 

On the other hand, when Benham and their friends started running out of the fairgrounds, they were having a hard time keeping up because of their asthma. After they left, Benham started to really feel how hard they had run to get out of there, their feet were cramping, their breathing was heavy, and they just felt weak and tired overall. Along with feeling scared, anxious, and nauseous.  

“ Even the next day I still felt anxious about what happened,” Benham said. 

Fantinel went to the Sam’s Club parking lot after leaving the fairgrounds to where some of her friends had left their cars. It wasn’t until that point that the emotions really hit her and she realized what had just happened. She was mostly scared and anxious because at that point they didn’t know if it was a targeted attack or a random act of violence. 

“I never really thought that I would experience something like that until it happened,” Fantinel said.

Like Fantinel, Benham was shocked by the events at the fairgrounds. They never thought they would undergo this kind of conflict in their lifetimes. 

“I always thought I would just hear about it,” Benham said.”I never thought I would experience it.” 

The prime suspect involved in the tragedy was arrested on Sunday, August 28, 2022.