More than 300 people had gathered on Fossetts Cove about 7 p.m. for a Memorial Day rodeo. The event took a violent turn when attendees asked an intoxicated man to leave and gunfire erupted.
Reynaldo Lopez of Marietta and his family parked alongside U.S. Highway 41 Sunday night waiting for family members who had gotten lost in the chaos.
“There were some people sitting on the tailgate of a white pickup truck,” said Lopez, who was standing about 50 feet from the gunman. “A man who looked like he was drunk got up and started shooting. The people in the truck pushed him off the truck and he got up and started shooting again.”
Lopez said he heard one of the shots whiz by his head then he saw people running.
“Everywhere I looked, people and horses were running,” he said. “I ran to get my family and we got out, but we can’t find my sister and my niece can’t find her parents.”
The Bartow County Sheriff’s Office said reports came in that persons were firing shots into a crowd at the largely Hispanic gathering.
Gracia Cervantes of Calhoun, who waited with her family to be cleared from the scene Sunday, said the crowd was mostly Hispanic from area Catholic churches.
“At first, I thought it was someone just celebrating,” she said. “The guy looked really drunk. I didn’t know it was real until people started running and screaming.”
Cervantes said the man continued shooting until he exhausted all the ammunition, then bystanders tackled him.
“He just kept shooting until he ran out,” she said. “The about 10 or 11 men grabbed him and threw him down and tied his hands with a rope.”
She said several people began kicking the gunman in the head until others stopped them.
When deputies arrived at the scene, they found the crowd had detained Celestino Moras, 25, of Austell, but a second shooter escaped before law enforcement arrived. Moras reportedly received the facial injuries when the crowd took him under control.
BCSO Sgt. Jonathan Rogers said Monday afternoon identifying the second shooter was proving difficult.
“There is not enough information to know who to look for,” he said. “We believe the other shooter left the area last night.”
Asked if anyone in attendance knew the suspected second shooter, Rogers said the investigation had not located anyone who identified him.
“Between the combination of language barrier and mayhem, we did not find anyone who could identify him,” he said, adding that even with a translator there is a “lack of understanding sometimes.”
Three people were shot in the altercation — two in the lower body and one in the neck. A woman also was cut on the hand with a knife, treated and released.
Bartow County EMS Public Information Office Brad Cothran said crews transported one patient to Floyd Medical Center and the other two to Cartersville Medical Center.
Moras is being held on a charge of aggravated assault. According to Bartow County Jail reports, Moras also has a hold request from the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The investigation is ongoing.