LYNDEN - Gang members won't be allowed at the Northwest Washington Fair in August - a security decision officials made after last year's violent gang fight.
At the end of the 2011 fair, one person was stabbed and three were shot, including two bystanders.
The fair board and the Lynden Police Department will take steps to restore the event's reputation as safe and family friendly, officials said Tuesday, June 26.
"Everybody that comes to the fair is expecting a safe environment for their families," fair Manager Jim Baron said. "When you have an incident like a shooting at the fair, it heightens everyone's awareness. It certainly heightens ours."
The fair board agreed to a bigger security budget, which could be spent on a larger private security force and more on-duty law enforcement officers. Baron, the Lynden police and the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office will meet soon to come up with a specific security plan for the fair, which will be held Aug. 13-18.
Some of the broader strategies have been decided, according to a statement released by the fair on Tuesday:
Known gang members will not be admitted to the fair.
People engaging in "gang activity" will be removed.
Video cameras will provide "nearly complete coverage" of the grounds, around the clock.
Gang members will be identified at the entrance by their clothing, tattoos and other typical displays, Lynden Police Chief Jack Foster said.
In case gang members get past the gate, any potentially violent situations on the fairgrounds will be stopped as soon as they are discovered.
"We've had situations in the past where gangs have confronted each other. They do posturing. They square off and flash their signs and taunt each other," Foster said.
Gang confrontations tend to escalate after repeated encounters. This was how last year's incident became so violent.
"These groups had come in contact with each other before, during the day in the afternoon, and it came together that evening around 10 o'clock, and it erupted," Foster said. "We've had that before - not with the same consequences."
Daniel Alonso Herrera, then 15, shot and injured three people on Aug. 20, 2011, the last day of the fair. A fourth victim was stabbed by an unknown attacker.
Some of the law enforcement response came from off-duty sheriff's deputies and U.S. border agents who were breaking down their fair displays when the fight started.
The shootings were the first in the fair's history. All of the victims recovered from their injuries.
Herrera was charged as an adult and pleaded guilty in February to two counts of assault. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Reach RALPH SCHWARTZ at email@example.com or call 715-2261.