'Oh my God, where's mom and dad?' Video shows panic breaking out in July 4 Broadway fireworks show
Overturned tables, unpaid bills and scores of abandoned children's shoes and sandals strewn about everywhere was the scene described by employees working at various Broadway at the Beach businesses Wednesday night.
Rumors of an active shooter during the July 4 fireworks display caused panic among the thousands of guests, many of whom ran into businesses for protection.
Police said there was no active shooter, or even shots fired, but that the chaos stemmed from a fight where someone referenced a gun.
One officer was heard on radio saying that people had told him there was a shooting by the bridge, and the accounts of managers working at restaurants on either side of the bridge seem to suggest the commotion started in that area.
Kelly Jones, a manager at Good Time Charley's on the north side of the bridge, said she thought the panic must have started from the south side of the bridge because people were fleeing toward her facility.
Brittany Brownell, a manager at Liberty Brewery and Grill just across the water on the south side, said she saw people fleeing toward her restaurant, so she figured people must have thought a shooter was coming from the north side.
Brownell said security came by Liberty Brewery about 10:10 p.m. and told them to lock everybody in the kitchen and stay away from glass.
She said about 200 people were locked in their kitchen for about a half hour, and everyone was mostly quiet as parents focused on calming their children while fireworks continued to blast.
Back on the job Thursday morning, Brownell said they had no definitive plan for responding to an active shooter, but they would get started working on one immediately.
Jones was back at work Thursday morning. She said she had a lot of anxiety about coming back — she contemplated calling off — but she didn't want to inconvenience someone else on her staff.
She said she locked herself and about 15 others in her office during the panic and refused to unlock the door until a fellow staff member knocked on the door and said everything was okay after about 40 minutes.
Jones got emotional when discussing a phone call she took from her 12-year-old daughter while she was locked in her office. Her daughter could sense something was wrong, but Jones just told her she was super busy at work, not wanting to alarm her, she said.
"All I could think about is if this is really a shooting and this is really happening, is this the last time she's going to talk to me," Jones said.
While Brownell said they locked all the doors into Liberty Brewery, Jones said staff didn't think to lock any doors into Good Time Charley's.
Shawn Gallagher, a bartender at Key West Grill, said the mess created by people flipping tables, stepping on top of the bar and losing their shoes took about two hours to clean up after everything calmed down.
"There was food all over the walls, ceiling and floor," he said.
Gallagher also noted that people left about $1,000 worth of unpaid bills while fleeing the commotion — "rightfully so," he said — but at least one couple had returned early Thursday and left a generous tip after a staff member helped them reunite with their children amid the chaos.
Like Jones and Brownell, Gallagher said he felt unprepared in how to respond to an active shooter, and he would like to see a plan in place for the future.
David Weissman: @WeissmanMBO, 770-377-5326