Several youngsters were injured — one seriously enough to require hospitalization — when false reports of imminent gunfire outside a Tijuana kindergarten caused parents, teachers, and children to run for cover.
The incident occurred at the Simón Bolivar kindergarten in the neighborhood of the same name at about 9:30 a.m. on June 26 as an end-of-the-school-year ceremony was about to get under way outside, the Tijuana daily El Mexicano reported.
"They're going to start shooting — get down!" the newspaper reported someone screaming, causing students, parents, and teachers to begin running helter-skelter as they sought safety in classrooms and bathrooms inside the school building.
Most of the injured children suffered cuts and scrapes from falling to the ground as parents tried to pull them to safety or from being trampled underfoot during the hysteria. One child required hospitalization after someone stepped on his face and put his eye out.
"They [the adults] ran without taking care, and they caused injuries to several children," a teacher who asked to remain anonymous told El Mexicano. After the panic subsided, diplomas that were to have been awarded to the children were left scattered on the floor inside the school, said the newspaper.
The incident began when police were called to investigate an anonymous tip of a stolen car parked behind the school. When officers arrived, a suspected drug addict was allegedly loitering near the car and began to run when he saw the police. Police gave chase, which is what led to the false alarm of an impending shootout.
Police later discovered that the car was not stolen and the man they had been chasing was not a drug addict. The Mexican military dispatched soldiers to the school after hearing false reports that gunfire had broken out. Armed soldiers aboard pickups discussed the situation with teachers and, once the teachers explained what had happened, the soldiers left.