A shooting at an off-campus homecoming party in Fort Valley, Georgia, early Saturday left one person dead and seven people wounded, according to local law enforcement authorities and media reports.
Chaotic scenes unfolded after midnight at the large party, an annual tradition celebrating the homecoming of nearby Fort Valley State University, with witnesses describing people running through neighboring yards trying to flee gunfire, The Macon Telegraph reported.
Hundreds of people gathered at the party, The Telegraph reported, and police officers were present in the area before the shooting began, according to Peach County Sheriff Terry Deese.
“There was just a large crowd of people,” Deese said. “Everything was going fine, somebody started yelling and then gunshots. Of course, then it was chaos.”
It was not clear what prompted the shooting or happened before it, but witnesses said party-goers began running before they heard the shots, The Telegraph reported.
Michael McGhee, a Fort Valley native who lives across the street from where the shooting occurred, told The Telegraph he was inside his house early Saturday morning with his family while his neighbors held the party on Carver Drive, near the campus of Fort Valley State.
McGhee said he saw people running through his back yard, then heard gunshots.
“It was around 1:30 [a.m.] when the gunshots started, and there was probably a good two to three minutes of shooting,” McGhee said. “There were several people shooting, I heard several different types of guns.
People were so terrified, they ran out of their shoes, he said.
“So many people were running... I found five or six shoes in my back yard.”
One of the people injured during the shooting who was taken to a hospital in Macon was pronounced dead shortly after 3 a.m., The Telegraph reported. He was identified by Peach County Coroner Kerry Rooks as Tyler French, 27, of Byron, Georgia.
Fort Valley State said French was not a student at the university, The Telegraph reported.
The condition of the seven people who suffered injuries was not known.
Carver Drive, the residential street where the shooting occurred, lies on the eastern side of Fort Valley State’s campus, according to The Telegraph.
The town of Fort Valley is about 30 miles southwest of Macon, and a little more than a 100 miles south of Atlanta.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting, The Telegraph reported.
Deese, the Peach County sheriff, said authorities are looking for more than one suspect.
“We’re pretty sure there were multiple shooters,” Deese said. “Definitely more than one.”
He said he believes there are more than three dozen witnesses investigators have to talk to.