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Injuries reported after bull gets loose at Dakota County Fair in Farmington

A runaway bull caused injuries to several visitors to the Dakota County Fair Wednesday night. DISCLAIMER: The attached video does contain explicit language.

The bull escaped from his pen, then broke through the gates and ran through the fairgrounds. At least seven people were injured in the incident, according to Farmington fire marshal John Powers.

Bull rider Nick Stolt, who was in town for the Bulls and Barrels rodeo, was sitting on the chutes when the bull escaped. He didn’t see the bull get loose, but word spread quickly among the riders, he said. A handful of bull riders grabbed lassos and went after the bull.

Farmington residents Leif and Lori Classon had a full view of the evening’s incident. They were seated on the northernmost bleachers of the grandstand. Lori Classon said they could see that the bull had escaped from its pen and was in the northeast corner of the fenced area around the grandstand.

Several bull riders and the rodeo’s pickup man tried to lasso the bull. At one point, one successfully roped the bull by the horns.

“But the bull took off and pulled the rope out of his hands,” Classon said.

The bull ran along the northern fence line to the gate. The Classons saw the bull jump up on the gate, which caused the gate to open. From the top of the bleachers, they watched as the bull ran north through the parked cars, all the way to the east gate entrance.

Spectators heard gunshots, Classon said. A sheriff’s deputy shot the bull, but it still knocked the deputy down before it turned left and headed west across the parking lot.

“(Bulls) have a lot of force. They buck really hard,” Stolt said. “You never want to be in the way. You never want to be hit by one.”

But the bull hit at least seven people, including a woman who received significant injuries and had to be airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center.

The bull turned again. It started running south toward the midway. Rodeo staff and Dakota County sheriff’s deputies chased the bull back toward the grandstand area. The pickup man threw a lasso at the bull, and caught it again. This time, the bull didn’t get loose. It was guided back into the arena, then led to a trailer. It had been shot twice, Stolt said.

“He really struggled for a while, too. That bull did not want to go back. He even laid down on the ground for a while,” Classon said.

A short round of applause and a few cheers went up once the bull was secured. But the applause didn’t last long.

“We cheered when they brought the bull in, but it was just kind of an odd silence after that because that’s when we started hearing rumors that people got run over by the bull,” Classon said.

Many spectators wanted to leave after the incident, but deputies held them back until all emergency personnel were finished tending to the injured fairgoers. The rodeo started up again about 45 minutes later, Stolt said.

“Everybody prayed for the people who were injured,” he said. “It really sucked the energy and the momentum out of the riders. We were OK if it wasn’t going to go on.”

The rodeo was a Midwest Bull Riders Association event, presented by Rice Bull Riding Company of Princeton.

This sort of incident is not common among rodeos, Stolt said.

“I’ve never seen anything like that happen before in my 12 years (of bull riding),” he said. “It was scary.”

Scary, for him, because his wife and young son were right next to the pen when the bull escaped.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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