SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KETK) – The Smith County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference on Friday discussing the new county measures that will be put in place for trail rides and other mass gatherings. Officials also discussed the status of the current investigation of Sunday’s shooting that left five people injured.
Pertaining to the active investigation of the trail ride shooting that occurred on Sunday, Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said that numerous people have been interviewed, including the organizer of the event.
The 30-year-old man that was shot at the event is still reportedly in serious condition and in the hospital. The sheriff said that the man just went into another surgery today and is not expected to be released any time soon.
“We’re going to use every tool we got to make sure that everyone is prosecuted to the full extent of what we’re able to do,” Smith said.
To see the full press conference, click below:
Sheriff Smith said in the conference that going forward, in Smith County, organizers of these types of events, as well as the owners of the land on which the events are held, will be accountable in order to ensure the safety of attendees. Smith further stated that the Fire Marshal’s office will be in charge of the inspections of the locations of these events from now on, in order to mitigate risks and ensure conditions of the event are in compliance with health and safety standards.
“There are numerous concerns, rules and regulations that must be adhered to in order to safely organize and operate large gatherings such as those seen in the trail rides,” said Smith.
These rules include ensuring food vendors are permitted by NET Health, there are bathroom facilities available, making sure there is not unmowed, dead grass that could potentially start a fire and that there is suitable space for emergency vehicles to enter and leave the premises if needed.
“The Smith County Fire Marshal’s office is currently developing policies which will call on the Fire Marshal or his designee to inspect any site designated for a gathering of persons where money or good is exchanged for entry, which could pose enhanced risk to the lives and well-being of Smith County citizens or visitors,” Smith said. “This includes both indoor and outdoor events occurring within unincorporated areas of the county.”
Smith explained that if an event cannot comply with the codes that have been set, “a Fire Marshal order will be issued citing the property is not eligible to host the event.”
Violations of the orders put in place for these events will result in a Class B misdemeanor, carrying a fine of $1,000 and/or 180 days in jail, Smith said. Subsequent violations could result in state jail felonies.
Smith County Pct. 4 Constable will also be enforcing a Coggins test requirement for events with two or more horses in attendance. Horses must have received this test within the past 12 months or owners will face citations.
Smith explained that law enforcement does not want to ban trail rides altogether, nor do they want to make it hard to organize one of these events lawfully.
Fire Marshal Jay Brooks further stated that “those that want to do these things right, I will be more than happy to help them and ensure that their event is as safe as possible… We’re not trying to shut down those that are doing the right thing, we’re trying to make these events safer for our citizens and for those that are visiting our county. Those that don’t want to play along, we are going to make it very difficult for you.”