LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Racing and caravanning on city streets and highways became popular during the pandemic as more people stayed home. As the state re-opened, the dangerous trend didn't go away and that has led to deadly consequences.
Cash Johnson is the creator of Little Rock Hood News, an independent blog that tracks what is going on in the capital city.
One of his most viewed stories— car shows. That's events where drivers gather on streets and in parking lots to show off their rides. We spoke to him two years ago during the pandemic when these car shows were popular.
Johnson explained that they still happen, though they are very different now.
"The new people that they bring with them, they bring guns and all type of stuff. It's been times where I have just been sitting in the car and three kids walk by me with AR rifles," Johnson described.
Johnson was at the event on Asher Street in March when several people were shot and two were killed.
"I was just sitting on the side, everybody doing their thing, and all I heard was a fully automatic weapon go off," said Johnson. "You got a girl laying in the bushes. You got people laying in the roadway. It was just so much chaos."
He knew one of the victims that was shot and killed that night.
"He was crawling to his truck, but by the time he got to his truck I think he died at his truck," said Johnson.
That week, LRPD Assistant Chief Andre Dyer went in front of the Little Rock board of directors as he described what led up to the shootings.
"From what I understand we had to clear the park of a thousand vehicles," said Dyer.
LRPD made it clear they were aware of the possibility of a "Sunday Funday," a term used to describe caravanning events, like the one that weekend.
Assistant Chief Dyer said multiple officers were off that day and there was not enough patrol on the streets like they originally scheduled.
"There could have been a lot of lives taken out there on that night. Thank God the number of lives that were taken was limited, and I'm not selling that short," said Dyer.
Following what happened, LRPD said they would be adding more patrols during the weekends as the weather gets warmer.
We requested an interview with the assistant chief to discuss this, but he declined to talk to us.
While LRPD would not answer our specific questions, they provided a statement that confirmed they are teaming up with other agencies to stop high-speed street racing.
The statement said in part, "While the joint effort aims to stop illegal street racing and caravanning, the detail will not interfere with day-to-day operations or calls for service."
Pulaski County and state police have been helping with these efforts. State police told us the efforts called "Operation Safe Streets" started May 12.
Earlier this month, state troopers arrested 610 people during "Operation Safe Streets." Charges included speeding, DUI, drugs, and illegal weapons.
Johnson said it's still not enough for police to simply respond to complaints at these car shows. They need to take it a step further.
"The only way I can say that LRPD can help is they have to put people in our community to patrol in our community and actually live in our community," said Johnson.
Police report there have been three deaths in the state related to racing.