HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) - The Hampton Coliseum Spring Carnival is a Memorial Day tradition. But this year, the city canceled the event amid safety concerns.
Four teens were injured and another was killed in a shooting near the Coliseum parking lot Saturday night. Police say two groups of teens got into a verbal altercation as they were leaving the carnival. The shooting happened outside carnival gates. Ralphael Davis Jr., 16, of Hampton, died.
"That carnival has become a nuisance to the city of Hampton," said Dawn Moses, Davis' aunt. "And for the past several years, this is how it ends."
Moses is referencing gunshots at last year's Coliseum carnival, which did not result in anyone hit.
Hampton's police chief, city manager and the Coliseum director decided to shut down the event Sunday, just three days into the scheduled stay, which was supposed to last until June 2.
Rob Vivona, of Amusements of America, who runs the carnival, says no city has ever canceled on his company when a carnival was underway in their 75 years of doing business.
For carnival workers, the cancelation is more than a disappointment. Memorial Day weekend is one of the biggest moneymakers of the year. Workers could be seen packing up their rides and booths Monday.
"My son's birthday was yesterday, so we were supposed to go to it yesterday for his birthday," said Analisa Lambert, who planned to attend the carnival this Memorial Day. "Then I got a news alert saying it got canceled, but I already got the room next to the carnival and I was just really mad because I had nothing else planned."
Lambert had to make other plans - she took her son to a movie and the beach instead.
Hampton's city manager Mary Bunting is out of town for the holiday, but answered critics' emails. In one she wrote: "With the shooter not yet apprehended, and the possibility of additional violence in the wake of the shooting, we felt community safety was better served with the cancelation."
Bunting said carrying on with the carnival would send the wrong message - that the city values money more than human life.
Hampton police say 30 officers were assigned to the carnival this weekend. At this time, it is not clear if the carnival will return next year.
Amusements of America gives the Hampton Coliseum a cut of the carnival profits.
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