Gunfire erupts at Denver marijuana celebration

2013-04-21T00:00:00Z Gunfire erupts at Denver marijuana celebrationThe Associated Press The Associated Press
April 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

DENVER - Gunfire erupted at a Denver pot celebration Saturday, injuring two people and scattering a crowd of thousands who had gathered for the first 4/20 counterculture holiday since the state legalized marijuana.

The man and woman who were shot were expected to survive, and police were looking for one or two shooters, said Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson. Police asked festival attendees for possible photo or video of the shootings, and had no immediate motive.

Witnesses described a scene in which a jovial atmosphere quickly turned to one of panic at the downtown Civic Center Park just before 5 p.m. Several thought firecrackers were being set off, then a man fell bleeding, his dog also shot.

"I saw him fall, grabbing his leg," said Travis Craig, 28, who was at the celebration, saw the shooting.

"He was just screaming that he was in pain, and wanted to know where his girlfriend was. She was OK. And then the cops showed up real quick, like, less than a minute. They put him on ambulance and left."

The annual pot celebration this year was expected to draw as many as 80,000 people after recent laws in Colorado and Washington made marijuana legal for recreational use.

A sizable police force on motorcycles and horses had been watching the celebration since its start earlier Saturday. But authorities, who generally look the other way at public pot smoking here on April 20, didn't arrest people for smoking in public, which is still illegal.

Police said earlier in the week that they were focused on crowd security in light of attacks that killed three at the Boston Marathon.

Before the shooting, reggae music filled the air, and so did the smell of marijuana, as celebrants gathered by midmorning in the park just beside the state Capitol.

Group smoke-outs were planned Saturday from New York to San Francisco. The origins of the number "420" as a code for pot are murky, but the drug's users have for decades marked the date 4/20 as a day to use pot together.

Colorado and Washington are still waiting for a federal response to the votes and are working on setting up commercial pot sales, which are still limited to people with certain medical conditions. In the meantime, pot users are free to share and use the drug in small amounts.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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