Families express frustration after limited attendance at Peoria high school basketball games

Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 10:10 PM CST
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - Within the past 10 days in Peoria, more than 160 shots have been fired. The gun violence is now impacting the way people watch high school playoff basketball.

Police say it’s all about safety.

With some of the biggest games for IHSA 3A boys’ regional basketball players, the stands were not packed like expected.

“I had to hunt down a ticket from my son, but I did get one. So, that’s good I’m able to come here and support him and see him in the game,” said Shirley Washington, a Central High School player’s grandmother.

Washington’s grandson was among the athletes who were each given five tickets. This limitation was created to reduce the crowd.

Peoria Central, Manual, Richwoods and Notre Dame High Schools played two games Wednesday night. Both with changed start times as well.

Police vehicles were at entrances as families walked into Peoria High School.

Peoria Police Chief Eric Echevarria said in a press conference Wednesday afternoon this was to keep the community safe after more than 160 rounds were fired in three shootings in the past 10 days.

“Rounds are going everywhere and that’s what we’re trying to control at this point,” the chief continued,

“The adjustments were strictly to maintain a sense of safety for players, visitors, and the public and it was not because something happened with our students,” Echevarria said.

Washington says she understands the safety concerns but was upset her entire family was not there to support her grandson.

“Considering you have family members that would like to come and see the game, and everybody can’t come,” said Washington.

Richwoods graduate and former basketball player Carlos Beck Jr. believes the games have better outcomes if there is more support in the crowd.

“Everybody wants to watch some good basketball and this is the main four high schools in Peoria, so I feel like it’s crazy,” said Beck Jr.

Other parents 25News spoke with off camera were not happy about the limited attendance and felt students were being punished.

Police believe the string of recent shootings are connected to a 2020 and a 2022 homicide.

“These incidents involved numerous types of caliber rounds, that include both pistol and high-capacity rifle rounds along with numerous shooters,” said Echevarria.

The chief recommended the same attendance limits for Friday’s game at Peoria High School.