EMPORIA, Va. -- Parents and local business owners have raised money for a reward, hoping to help police find the person or persons who opened fire during the fireworks portion of the Peanut Festival.
It happened Saturday night and the sound of gunfire sent hundreds running for cover while parents tried to protect their children.
Pastor Brad Barbour with Victory Fellowship Church looked out to see the commotion.
"[Parents] having their arms out and pushing them against the building and telling them to get down and stay close,” he recalled.
At that moment, Barbour said he jumped into action, opening the doors to the church so it can serve as a sanctuary for those fleeing the gunshots.
"Kids were laying under the pews crying" he said
The Peanut Festival is a huge event and draw for Emporia.
It features bands, vendors, food trucks, carnival rides and fireworks.
"This is Americana at its best," says Commonwealth's Attorney Patricia Watson.
Yet, what started out as a beautiful day and wonderful family event changed drastically as the sun went down.
Billy Newsome is behind getting the reward fund started.
"You just can't have people shooting guns around children at a carnival,” Newsome said.
Newsome was there with his family and young son, who he says looked up to see “a mass group of people, they were all running for their cars.”
“[The shooters had]a total disregard for any of the people that were here, any of the children that were here,” he added.
Pastor Barbour opened up his church again Monday evening for parents, their children and anyone from the community to attend a meeting where a counselor spoke, to try to ease the tension some children were experiencing.
"The thought process was the kids need it, parents need it and the community needs it.”
The reward now stands at $4,000.