St. Patrick’s parade will be Kansas City’s first big event since the deadly Super Bowl celebration

FILE - A law enforcement officer looks around the scene following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebration in Kansas City, Mo., Feb. 14, 2024. Kansas City, Missouri is preparing for its annual St. Patrick's Day parade on Sunday, March 17, 2024. It will be the first big mass gathering in Kansas City since Feb. 14, when gunfire erupted as about 1 million people attended a rally celebrating the Chiefs' Super Bowl win. Organizers say extra police will be on hand Sunday, along with many other precautions. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, file)

FILE – A law enforcement officer looks around the scene following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebration in Kansas City, Mo., Feb. 14, 2024. Kansas City, Missouri is preparing for its annual St. Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday, March 17, 2024. It will be the first big mass gathering in Kansas City since Feb. 14, when gunfire erupted as about 1 million people attended a rally celebrating the Chiefs’ Super Bowl win. Organizers say extra police will be on hand Sunday, along with many other precautions. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, file)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of people are expected at this weekend’s St. Patrick’s Day parade in Kansas City, where they should expect much tighter security measures than in past years due to last month’s deadly mass shooting at the Chiefs’ Super Bowl celebration.

The parade in Missouri’s largest city on Sunday will be the first mass gathering since the Feb. 14 victory parade.

Officers will be placed strategically along the St. Patrick’s Day parade route, police Sgt. Phil DiMartino said, though he declined to say how many would be deployed.

“There will also be an abundance of work conducted prior to the parade beginning to ensure it’s a safe environment for everyone,” DiMartino said in an email. “There will be many technology assets deployed and there will be officers among the crowd in plainclothes, as well.”

About 800 officers were working at the Super Bowl celebration. Gunfire erupted near the end of the event, wounding nearly two dozen people, including children, and killing a mother of two.

Two men have been charged with second-degree murder and other crimes in the victory parade shootings. According to police, they were in separate groups that became agitated because they thought the other group was staring at them. Three other people were charged this week in the shootings, accused of illegally purchasing high-powered rifles and guns with extended magazines. And two juveniles are in custody on gun-related and resisting arrest charges.

The victory parade shootings raised questions about whether such gatherings are worth the risk, especially in Kansas City, which has one of the nation’s highest homicide rates. Mayor Quinton Lucas wondered aloud if a scaled-down celebration inside metal detector-protected Arrowhead Stadium might be the best option if the Chiefs win again.

Although the mayor supported going ahead with the St. Patrick’s Day parade, he acknowledged that it might be hard for some to attend.

“I think a lot of us, particularly those of us who are thinking about bringing our children somewhere, may ask, at least for a little while, ‘Is this the sort of thing that we want to risk?’ ” Lucas, a Democrat, said. “It’s a shame that this is what we’ve come to today in America and in our city.”

Other cities planning big parades, including St. Louis across the state, are also taking a closer look at security after what happened in Kansas City last month.

Patrick J. McCarthy, a retired St. Louis police sergeant who has worked in security for 51 years, is in charge of making sure that both of the city’s big St. Patrick’s Day parades are safe. Intensified discussions about security “began about an hour after we learned of the Kansas City shooting,” McCarthy said.

Both St. Louis parades — one is downtown on Saturday and the other is Sunday in the traditionally Irish area known as Dogtown — typically draw tens of thousands of people. “Why do we let a couple of people ruin what should be a celebration?” McCarthy asked. “We’re not going to stop that because some people might act a fool.”

Kansas City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is one of the nation’s biggest, typically drawing up to 400,000 people. The event’s organizers and people involved in other big area parades met shortly after last month’s shootings to compare emergency plans and discuss best practices to deal with potential problems.

Although police wouldn’t say how many more officers would work Sunday’s event, Erin Gabert, a member of the parade committee, said there will be more than in past years. Organizers are also urging people to leave their guns at home. And alcohol is prohibited along the route.

Parade leaders also are urging families and groups to arrive with a plan for where to park, and where to meet if people get separated. Families are encouraged to have kids wear something that identifies them.

Perhaps most importantly, people are urged to alert an officer or parade volunteer if they see anything that worries them.

“It’s way better to be safe than sorry,” Gabert said.

DiMartino declined to specify how police will try to prevent violence before it happens. McCarthy, who helped lead security when Pope John Paul II visited St. Louis in 1999, said some likely steps would be stationing officers on rooftops and among the crowds, and using mobile and security cameras to help spot potential danger.

“You’re looking for precursors to the violence, if possible,” McCarthy said.

There’s only so much police can do to prevent violence at parades and other large public events.

At the 2022 Fourth of July parade in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, police say the gunman climbed a fire escape to perch atop a row of specialty stores and then opened fire on the crowds below, killing seven people and wounding more than 30 others.

Last year, seven people were injured in a shooting during a parade that was part of Boston’s annual Caribbean festival. Just as in Kansas City, police blamed the shooting on an altercation between two groups.

Organizers of the Kansas City St. Patrick’s Day parade are eager to show that their community can rise above the violence of a month ago.

“We are absolutely bigger and better than that horrific tragedy that happened at the Super Bowl celebration,” Gabert said. “We are not going to let that define who we are as a city.”

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Salter reported from St. Louis.

AP U.S. News

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