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Increased police presence at Minnesota State Fair after person shot Saturday

Police say one person was shot in the leg at the State Fair Saturday night after a collection of young people started fighting near the Midway.

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. — The Minnesota State Fair Police Department confirmed a shooting took place at the fairgrounds Saturday night, prompting an evacuation.

During a press conference Sunday, State Fair Chief of Police Ron Knafla said the incident happened after a "large group of youths" started causing fights near the Midway. When the shot was fired, Knafla said there were numerous officers nearby who were able to react quickly.

"I don't know what else could have been done," he said. "Somebody to engage in such a brazen act in a crowd of people with no regard for the safety or the lives of others. It's just disgusting in my opinion."

He added, "We had a solid security plan that worked very well for nine days of the fair," Knafla said. "Again, this is the act of one careless person that took an action that endangered the lives of a number of fairgoers."

The victim, a man, suffered a gunshot wound to the leg.

Early Sunday morning, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said on Twitter that law enforcement is investigating what happened and will be "bolstering their presence" Sunday.

Officials later confirmed the presence of Minnesota State Patrol officers will be doubled through Labor Day.

According to the Minnesota State Fair Police Department, officers responded to a gunshot just after 10 p.m. Saturday near Carnes Avenue and Liggett Street. Officials say a victim was found with non-life-threatening injuries and taken to a nearby hospital by Saint Paul Fire.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher spoke about the incident during his Live on Patrol livestream on Sunday afternoon, saying he and another deputy reported hearing as many as three shots, but only one casing was recovered at the scene. 

Fletcher said several agencies from across the state have volunteered to send extra personnel to assist with security and law enforcement in the final days of the State Fair.

"There's going to be another 200,000 people here, and we're going to do everything in our power to keep them safe," Fletcher said.

Fletcher said Ramsey County deputies will also have an additional security perimeter set up around the exterior of the fair.

Ramsey County Sheriff's Deputy Alex Graham was also there when the violence erupted late Saturday night.

“People fighting, brawling, pushing, kicking -- everything,” Graham said.

Graham said he saw the man fire the gun and described the chaos trying to catch him.

"Essentially swimming upstream against the Mississippi," Graham said. "We're going to find you. This is not an 'if,' it's a 'when.'"

Fletcher said it’s still unknown how the gun go into the fairgrounds.

"The fencing around here is good fencing, but it's easy to throw a gun over the top. The metal detection is good but not perfect. So when you have a quarter million people coming in here, it's not going to be a perfect scenario," Fletcher said. “If you have any concerns about the fair, just leave the Midway before 10. It's real simple. That's where our problems occur is right here at the head of the Midway."

Gov. Walz, who spoke alongside fair officials Sunday morning, didn't mince words, urging the state's judicial branch to hold people who commit gun crimes accountable, adding, "it's senseless, it's outrageous."

"If you commit a gun crime in Minnesota, it needs to be very clear that there are going to be consequences that are harsh," Walz said.

John Harrington, the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said during the press conference the multi-agency partnership put together "is one of the best and robust plans" that he's seen. He added that officials currently don't know how the gun got through security and into the fairgrounds.

"I'm not happy about the fact that we had anybody hurt at the State Fair, but that we only have one shot fired as far as we can see, I think is probably a testimony of the fact that there was a quick action by police officers coming to assist," Harrington said.

Prior to the shooting, Harrington said there were minor fights among younger people that had to be broken up.

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is now helping with the investigation, State Fair police say.

"Grateful for the coordinated law enforcement presence at the State Fair," Walz tweeted. "Officers are working quickly to usher folks off the fairgrounds and respond to reports of violence in the Midway area. "

The suspect was not apprehended, according to officials.

Editor's Note: This is a developing story and will be updated as more information become available.

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