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Birmingham police say no shots fired after chaos at BJCC during AHSAA championships

AL.com logo AL.com 3/6/2022 Carol Robinson, al.com
Hoover coach Krystle Johnson sets up her chairs just so, but then an emergency event occurred during the AHSAA Class 7A girls championship at BJCC's Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday, March 5, 2022. © Vasha Hunt/al.com/TNS Hoover coach Krystle Johnson sets up her chairs just so, but then an emergency event occurred during the AHSAA Class 7A girls championship at BJCC's Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday, March 5, 2022.

Chaos erupted at Birmingham’s BJCC during Saturday’s high school basketball championships with reports ranging from multiple fights to an active shooter.

There was no active shooter, according to Birmingham police, and authorities said there’s no evidence of shots being fired either inside or outside of the downtown conference center.

The commotion happened after the Class 6A boys’ title game between Cullman and Huffman. Cullman defeated Huffman 58-50.

The awards ceremony had already taken place and Cullman’s coach and four players were in the postgame press conference when pandemonium erupted.

Birmingham police Sgt. Rod Mauldin said the ordeal began just before 5 p.m. when officers had to break up multiple fights that began in the BJCC and moved outside.

The commotion led to panic which quickly led to the reports of a shooting. Witnesses reported people lying on the floor in front of the scorers’ tables and officers lifting children over the railing to get out of the stands.

Most of the arena cleared, but officials said the AHSAA did not officially evacuate the floor or building. BJCC security, however, did help fans move to a more secure location and some fans, including multiple students, were taking shelter in the basement.

Mauldin said officers were able to resolve the situation.

Play resumed with Vestavia Hills facing Hoover for the 7A girls’ title. The Bucs won the game 73-64.

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Hoover coach Krystle Johnson, whose team was warming up prior to its game. “We were dialed in, but it was a scary moment. We were just ready to play. Nothing was going to keep us from being ready. I didn’t know what was happening, who was safe, who was not safe. I got separated from them, but we stayed focused and ready to play the game.”

Vestavia Hills coach John David Smelser’s team was on the court warming up as well.

“I looked up and saw people ducking,” he said. “My first reaction was to get my players to the locker room, so we did. My team is in a closet locked up. They are all bawling, crying. They don’t know what’s going on, then we have to go play a basketball game. I’m not making excuses, but it did kind of get us out of our rhythm. We already had a pregame speech. We were warming up and then we had to start over again. You don’t prepare for that.”

Fans evacuate or shelter in place during an emergency event occurring leading to the BJCC being partially evacuated before the AHSAA Class 7A girls championship at BJCC's Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday, March 5, 2022. © Vasha Hunt/al.com/TNS Fans evacuate or shelter in place during an emergency event occurring leading to the BJCC being partially evacuated before the AHSAA Class 7A girls championship at BJCC's Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday, March 5, 2022.

The start of the game, originally scheduled for 4 p.m., was delayed.

“I’m glad they extended the time,” Smelser said. “If we would have played in 10 minutes, we wouldn’t have been ready. I’m glad they pushed it back another 10, and we kind of got back in gear.”

Enterprise boys coach Rhett Harrelson had a little more time to gather his team before a matchup with James Clemens for the 7A boys title. Harrelson, several of his players and multiple fans crashed the postgame press conference for the Class 6A boys championship seeking shelter. But he said after his team defeated the Jets 66-64 later Saturday that they were able to regroup.

Hoover evacuates the floor during an emergency event leading to the BJCC being partially evacuated before the AHSAA Class 7A girls championship at BJCC's Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday, March 5, 2022. © Vasha Hunt/al.com/TNS Hoover evacuates the floor during an emergency event leading to the BJCC being partially evacuated before the AHSAA Class 7A girls championship at BJCC's Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday, March 5, 2022.

“Really and truly in high school, I feel like you have to make adjustments all the time,” he said. “We hit on it at the beginning of the game. I just said, ‘Hey guys, it happened. It’s over. Now let’s go focus on what we do. I don’t think it affected us at all in the game.”

Journalist Dennis Victory contributed to this report.

Fans evacuate or shelter in place during an emergency event occurring leading to the BJCC being partially evacuated before the AHSAA Class 7A girls championship at BJCC's Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday, March 5, 2022.

Fans evacuate or shelter in place during an emergency event occurring leading to the BJCC being partially evacuated before the AHSAA Class 7A girls championship at BJCC's Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday, March 5, 2022.
© Vasha Hunt/al.com/TNS
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