A weekend shooting at the Point Mallard Aquatic Center prompted an increased police presence at the water park Monday but didn't deter a steady stream of patrons who entered the east gate eager to cool off.
Two park patrons were injured in the Saturday night shooting and treated at a hospital for wounds police described as minor. On Monday afternoon, Caleb Jones, 18, of Decatur, turned himself in to Decatur police. He was in Morgan County Jail with bail set at $60,000 on two second-degree assault charges, according to police spokeswoman Emily Long.
Most of the Monday morning patrons said they were unfazed by the gun violence.
Kelley Wright, of Decatur, brought her two grandchildren, ages 6 and 1, to the water park minutes after it opened.
“We’ve always felt safe coming to Point Mallard,” said Wright, who said she has visited the park each summer for about the past 35 years. “I believe it was an isolated incident. I didn’t give the shooting a second thought.”
Upon entering the wave pool complex Monday morning, Hunter Talley, 27, of Moulton, and his friend Austin Burt, 23, of Hartselle, said it is unfortunate the shooting happened.
“It’s a public place like courthouses, ballgames,” Talley said. “Guns are part of our society. I’m a gun supporter. There’s a right place for guns and a wrong place for guns. Point Mallard is for fun, not guns.”
Burt said he felt tighter check-in security is needed at the aquatic center.
“Installing metal detectors might be best for everybody’s safety,” he said. “They make firearms that can get in here real easy. This is a fun place to be and then somebody goes silly and starts shooting up the place. You shouldn’t be coming to Point Mallard to be worried about getting shot and trampled.”
Janell Ford, 27, of Decatur, said she attended the Saturday night swim with her children. She was back at the wave pool Monday morning.
“I didn’t think it was a gunshot, I thought it was an inner tube bursting. It wasn’t very loud,” said Ford, who has a season pass to the park. “People started running. I told my kids to sit still. We didn't want to get trampled. Everybody was running everywhere. … I think there were too many people out here Saturday night. I think the city ought to take some of the thousands of dollars they made and get some metal detectors.”
Park Superintendent Stephanie McLain said the city is “looking at discussing more safety precautions in the future.”
Darla Nelson from DeKalb County said her family had Monday’s visit to the wave pool planned for several months. She said the shooting wasn’t a deterrent.
“You can’t live in fear,” said Nelson, who drove her family 90 minutes from their home in Grove Oak to enjoy the 49-year-old iconic wave pool. “It’s always been a family-friendly place. We believe the shooting was isolated. Also, I thought it wouldn’t be so crowded today.”
Park officials said about 1,400 attended the water park Sunday, hours after the Saturday night shooting. “Our numbers on Sunday were in line with what we did last year at this time,” said Nicole Belcher, aquatic facility manager. She called Monday “just a normal day at the park.”
“I think today’s crowd is looking pretty good,” she said. “It’s actually a little busier than expected.”
Long said about five officers were on the park’s grounds or patrolling the area Monday. McLain said three officers usually patrol the park.
The shooting occurred at 9:08 p.m. Saturday, near the conclusion of a “Splash into Summer” event that began at 6:30 p.m. and was to last until 9:30 p.m. The event featured reduced admission of $5 and fireworks.
Several Point Mallard campers said they never heard a gunshot Saturday night.
However, camper Jim Herring said he was walking toward the aquatic center to watch the fireworks when he saw people fleeing the water park.
“It looked like 20 million people running everywhere, scattering,” he said. “I was near T.C. Almon (Recreation Center) and four teenage girls came up screaming and crying.”