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Panic at July Fourth celebrations as crowds mistake fireworks for gunfire

In a sign of heightened alert after the deadly shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, crowds ran for cover at separate events in Florida and Pennsylvania, but no shots were fired.
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Communities across the United States were left shaken after fireworks were mistaken for gunfire during multiple July Fourth celebrations, causing scenes of chaos.

In a sign of heightened alert after the shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, where six people were killed and 38 injured Monday morning, crowds ran for cover at separate events in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Orlando, Florida.

Police said about 12 people were injured in a stampede in Orlando caused by the crowd mistaking fireworks for gunfire. Reporters said hundreds of people ran away from the display, taking cover where they could.

“We believe this was fireworks that were going off in the crowd at the same time the main fireworks display was going on,” Orlando Deputy Police Chief Eric Smith told CBS affiliate WKMG.

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“People started running, believing it was gunshots, of course, with everything that’s going on.”

Police reunited people with family members who had been separated at the “Fireworks at the Fountain” event at Lake Eola. Some people jumped into the lake while seeking safety, the news station reported.

Earlier Monday, Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón said events such as the Highland Park shooting showed the importance of being on high alert.

Similar scenes developed in Harrisburg, where a large fight took place about 9:30 p.m. ET, but no shots were fired, City Hall said in a tweet.

Videos posted to social media show large crowds running for safety. According to local reporters, the panic took place just before an official July Fourth fireworks display was due to start.

Footage showed hundreds scattering in Philadelphia during a July Fourth concert and fireworks show that left two Philadelphia-area law enforcement officers injured. Police confirmed to NBC Philadelphia that two officers were stabilized at a hospital after being struck by gunfire near throngs who gathered at and near the city’s famed Museum of Art.

At an overnight news conference, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said both have been treated and released. One was described as a traffic officer for the city department; the other was a member of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Bomb and Hazardous Device Disposal Unit assigned to the Philadelphia department. Both were working security during the festivities, she said, and had not heard gunfire when they were struck.