Crowds flee Leimert Park’s Juneteenth Festival after unfounded shooting scare

A man beats a handheld drum while children hold a drum and a shaker while outdoors at a fair.
Pop Diouf, right, drums with children at the Leimert Park Village Juneteenth Festival on Monday.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

For nearly eight hours Monday, the celebratory scene at the Juneteenth Festival in Leimert Park had been peaceful and joyous.

In a show of unity, hundreds of people had descended on the historic Black neighborhood in L.A. to celebrate the holiday, which marks the day the last enslaved people in the U.S. learned they were free. People have been celebrating Juneteenth in Leimert Park for years, long before it became a federal holiday in 2021.

But just minutes before headliner and Grammy-winning R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan was to go onstage, some people began to panic and flee after hearing reports of a shooting. As a precaution, festival organizers canceled Sullivan’s performance, ending the event an hour early.


Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to a crowd at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles to celebrate Juneteenth.

June 20, 2023

Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Drake Madison said officers in the area responded at 7:50 p.m. to multiple calls of a shooting near the intersection of Leimert Boulevard and Stocker Street.

Upon arriving, Madison said, police found no evidence that a shooting had occurred. But a few minutes later, officers responded to reports of a group fighting at a McDonald’s 2,000 feet southwest from their location.

Videos on social media show a small crowd inside the restaurant screaming and yelling. Some people are standing on tables while others force their way behind the counter and try to take the cashier boxes.

At least one person is seen slamming a cashier box on the ground, causing money to spill on the ground. Dozens of people run over to grab the cash.

Madison said at least one person was arrested in connection with the robbery. The name of that person has not been released, and the incident remains under investigation, he said.


After the chaos, Sullivan wrote a statement on her Instagram account: “I hope everyone made it home to their loved ones tonight! I’m so disappointed we couldn’t come together and celebrate Juneteenth! If you’re still at the park please leave. The show is cancelled [crying emoji].”

Still Rising Corp., the festival’s organizer, wrote on Instagram that the event was ended early for the safety of attendees and area residents.

“As we continue to look into further details on reported incidents, we are working with the proper authorities,” it wrote. “We remain committed to creating impactful events that highlight the importance of diversity, equality and the ongoing pursuit of freedom.”

On Twitter, people who were at the festival criticized organizers for poor crowd control. Other social media videos show people standing on rooftops of businesses, dancing and cheering performers who were onstage.

The crowd stampedes were believed to have started when people began running and knocked over a vendor’s tent. Someone said “gun,” according to one festival attendee, causing more people to panic and flee.

Some people at the festival were already on edge after a string of shootings during Juneteenth celebrations across the U.S.


On Saturday night, one person was killed and another injured in a shooting that stemmed from a dispute at a Juneteenth event in San Diego’s Liberty Station.

Early Sunday, one person was killed and at least 22 were injured when a number of people started shooting on a crowd of hundreds at a Juneteenth celebration in Willowbrook, Ill., near Chicago.

And on Monday afternoon, a shooting near a Juneteenth event in Milwaukee left six people ages 14 to 19 wounded. An injured 17-year-old who was believed to be the gunman was taken into custody.

The Juneteenth Festival in Leimert Park featured 300 Black-owned businesses, three main stages, two DJ stages and one spoken word stage.