Residents of neighborhoods surrounding downtown Sacramento awoke to the forlorn rumbling of fireworks exploding in the morning light -- the remnants of the midnight show canceled in Old Sacramento after a gun battle left two dead and injured three others.
The pyrotechnics were detonated just after 8 a.m. this morning. Mike Testa, senior vice president for the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau, said they were armed with live charges and could not be stored.
Tourism officials had contemplated setting off the fireworks at 3 a.m., but that would have interfered with the police investigation at the shooting scene, Testa said. It also would have been too expensive to arrange for a fireworks show tonight, he said.
"I'm sure a lot of people did not want to be woken up at 8 a.m.," Testa said. "But the reality is, it had to be done."
The future of fireworks on New Year's eve in Old Sacramento has not been decided, said Testa, whose agency hosts the event. Testa said the shooting at a bar in old town that left two people dead was out of character for the usually wholesome, safe annual affair.
"In the 12 years we have been doing this event we have not encountered any major issues," said Testa.
The 9 p.m. show Monday night went off as planned as families gathered along Front Street and near the Embassy Suites Hotel to watch the fireworks shot from the other side of the river in West Sacramento.
"It was a good show and otherwise uneventful," said Testa. He estimated 25,000-30,000 attended the first show.
Then, about 40 minutes later, gunfire erupted from the Sports Corner Café at Second and K Street. When the shooting was over, two people had been killed, including a bar employee. Three people were injured, including a 22-year-old man, whom police said was the shooter, who was arrested. His identity and those people killed and injured have also not been named.
The midnight show was cancelled at the direction of the police department for public safety reasons, Testa said.
"We certainly didn't disagree with them," he said. "We followed their lead."
Testa said the shooting was about two blocks removed from where most people gather to watch the fireworks. The viewing of the fireworks has traditionally been a family-centered event.
"It's an alcohol-free event," said Testa. "The 9 o'clock show is specifically for families with kids. The music is often Disney songs and there are smiley-face fireworks."
There is precedence in Sacramento for cancelling New Year's events downtown if public safety is deemed at risk. A Time's Square-type ball drop party near 10th and K streets for the 2009 New Year got scary with shoving and fighting.
The event was eventually cancelled.
Testa said it is too soon to say if fireworks in Old Sacramento will also be cancelled.
"We have not had those conversations," he said. "But I go back to the fact that we have been doing this event for 12 years without incident and unfortunately we had an isolated incident last evening. That will be part of the conversation moving forward, but at this point I don't think anybody's made any decision about next year."