LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Two 15-year-old boys are accused of opening fire in broad daylight on a busy downtown sidewalk as the Kentucky Derby Festival's Pegasus Parade marched by Thursday afternoon. Two other teens were injured, and panicked families dived behind bleachers and trash bins to escape the chaos.
Police Chief Steve Conrad said one victim was a 17-year-old boy believed to be known to the shooters. The second was a 14-year-old girl who he described as a bystander. Both were taken to the hospital and are expected to recover.
"When someone is brazen enough to walk into a crowd of families and shoot somebody because he had some sort of score to settle, it's very disconcerting," said Louisville Metro Police Sgt. Phil Russell. "These are kids with guns making kid decisions. Any parent and any citizen should be frustrated by this."
The gunfire erupted just after 6:30 p.m. near the corner of Fourth Street and Broadway, a main intersection in downtown Louisville along the parade route. Families were packed into bleachers and standing along the street to watch the parade.
Russell said more than 500 police officers were stationed along the route, at least one officer at every corner. Yet the boys fired anyway.
"It's frightening to think that we have youth that are armed and making such immature decisions, without any measure of the consequences," he said. "And how much more horrible this could have been."
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said 100,000 or more people attended the parade, which comes during a week of festivities leading up to the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
Carter Wilson, a 10-year-old boy who was there with his family, said he heard what he thought at first was a firecracker. Then he heard screaming and saw one of the victims lying on the sidewalk. He said a group of kids ran around the corner and police ran after them.
Around him, parents threw children onto the street and dived on top of them to shield them from bullets.
Russell said the two teens were apprehended within minutes.
Police paused the parade for eight minutes, but decided to let it resume once the shooters were apprehended, concerned that masses fleeing in panic would complicate the investigation.
The teens face two counts each of assault, tampering with evidence, possession of a handgun by a minor and receiving stolen property, police said.
The case against them will begin in juvenile court and their names have not been released. Jeff Cooke, a spokesman for the Jefferson County Commonwealth's Attorney, said the use of a firearm automatically makes the case eligible to be transferred to adult court.
The county attorney's office will present the case to a juvenile court judge, who will decide if it should be sent to circuit court, Cooke said.
Russell said figuring out how a 15-year-old got a gun will be part of the investigation.
"It's an understandable question," he said, "where are the parents or guardians and will they be held responsible?"
Aimee Boyd, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Derby Festival, said the shooting Thursday was the first violent event in the 61-year history of the parade. The festival has expanded in the years since to a two-week series of events, including the Thunder Over Louisville fireworks show, a hot air balloon race and the steamboat race.
It concludes with a concert on the waterfront Friday night, the eve of the Kentucky Derby.
She said festival organizers are frustrated by what happened at Thursday's parade and concerned for the families of the victims and the parade-goers frightened by the gunfire.
But the Derby celebration will go on: She said the park was packed Friday afternoon, sunny and 72 degrees.
"This has not dampened our spirits at all."