Editor’s note: KETK News was originally told by the Smith County Sheriff’s Office that a 13-year-old was in the hospital after being shot in the face. They have since corrected the statement, stating that a 30-year-old victim sustained a gunshot wound to his face. The 13-year-old was treated and released from the hospital on the morning of the shooting, according to the sheriff’s office.
SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KETK) — Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith gave new details on Monday regarding the Sunday morning trail ride shooting that sent five people to the hospital after a string of shootings.
Sheriff Smith said in a press conference on Monday that his office, the fire marshal’s office and the district attorney’s office will be going after the organizers of the event with “any civil lawsuit, as well as any criminal enforcement.”
“We’ll be looking at failure to stop and render aid, just anything that we can file on the event holder, or anyone else, they’ve broken the law in Smith County and will be prosecuted,” Smith said.
Smith also said that when law enforcement arrived on scene, the event organizers and security were gone and as of now, they have not been in contact with any of the organizers, nor have they located any of them. He further stated that no permit was filed for the event and that, as far as officials know, the organizers did not have permission to use the property that they were on.
“Anywhere we can file charges on this event, they will be filed,” he said.
However, Smith emphasized that anyone who was only attending the event, excluding the shooters, will not face any charges and is encouraged to assist law enforcement with the investigation by calling the sheriff’s office at 903-566-6600.
According to a press release from the Smith County Sheriff’s Office, five gunshot victims were taken to hospitals in Longview, Kilgore and Tyler, one being a 30-year-old airlifted to a Tyler hospital in critical condition from being shot in the face. Smith confirmed that the other four victims were treated and released at the hospitals the same day.
According to the sheriff’s office, the person who was shot in the face was out on bond for a murder that occurred in Marshall in November 2021.
The sheriff’s office responded to the scene at around 12:35 a.m. Sunday when they received reports of multiple gunshot victims in the 18000 block of FM 2767 in eastern Smith County. Officials said that further investigation determined that the event had been organized by Unified Elite Riderz out of Marshall and had been described as a trail ride, ATV ride and horse show.
Multiple SCSO deputies responded to the scene, along with the Smith County Fire Marshal’s office, Constable Pct. 4 office and Texas DPS troopers.
The location of the event was observed to be a large pasture with “numerous individuals” still at the scene. Some witnesses spoke to investigators and were reportedly able to identify multiple persons of interest.
According to the release, witnesses told investigators that the altercation took place “near the concert stage,” resulting in “one or more trail ride groups shooting into the crowd.” They also recounted that the on-site private security had been collecting firearms from attendees prior to their entry into the concert.
The witnesses further stated that after the initial shooting, some groups ran back to security and took back their firearms, resulting in a subsequent shooting in the area.
After law enforcement arrived at the scene, a third shooting reportedly took place near the rear of the property. The sheriff’s office believes, at this time, that all injuries took place in the initial shooting after no new victims were located on the scene by law enforcement from the second or third shooting.
“When gunshots go off like that, they scatter,” said Smith.
Only one victim still remains in the hospital early this morning, according to the release, and is reportedly in critical but stable condition.
“I can look back at least two years from now, down in mount enterprise, two killed in Waskom here a few weeks ago, which started at Liberty City. We’ve had trail rides here off of county roads in Smith County, everywhere you can follow… there’s violence,” said Smith.
A search warrant has since been obtained in order to process the crime scene and collect evidence while investigators continue to interview witnesses. Any other witnesses or anyone with any pertinent information to the case should call the sheriff’s office’s Emergency Operations Center at 903-566-6600.
Investigators are also interested in talking to the promoter of the event, Unified Elite Riderz, as well as the personnel and owner of Diamond Elite Security out of Louisiana. The poster pictured below is part of the advertisement for the event.
“We also have questions as to whether or not a Louisiana security company can operate in the state of Texas,” said Smith.