SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - What was supposed to be a fun celebration in Balboa Park this past weekend turned into a situation that got way out of control. News 8 spoke exclusively with one of the party's organizers.
Matthew Hardick tells us he has reached out to police to take responsibility for the event, and is extremely heartsick and apologetic about the party that trashed the lily pond.
"I'm devastated and I'm so remorseful for what happened, and to all the people this has affected and angered, and that's why I'm here," Hardick said.
As one of the nine organizers of the 2nd annual Midnight Water Gun Fight at Balboa Park, Hardick says he wants to take responsibility for what happened and make restitution to restore the pond to its original beauty.
"I'm so sorry to the people of San Diego, to the Parks and Rec people for having to do all that work to have to clean that up," he said.
He says he sent out an invitation to his 800-plus Facebook friends about a month ago for the event, which was created last year with the best of intentions.
"I'm in the recovery community so I'm always looking to build and develop safe, clean sober fun so people don't have to go to bars and nightclubs… bringing a sense of what it was like when we were kids," he said.
Hardick says about 20 people attended last year, but this year through social media, the crowd grew to more than 1,000. He says he was shocked and thrilled by the turnout.
"The whole night and the spirit of the event was laughter and joy," he said. "Then people started getting pushed in the pond and it escalated."
Hardick and other organizers started telling people to get out of the pond, but the party had taken on a life of its own. Not knowing what else to do, Hardick took video of the scene to at least document what was happening.
"I couldn't believe it. Nobody had gone in there to smash any of those lily boxes. I personally didn't even know there was koi fish in there, or turtles. I thought it was a reflecting pool," he said.
For the record, Hardick says there were no public officials at the event.
"This has nothing to do with Carl DeMaio, this has nothing to do with Johnathan Hale, it has nothing to do with Todd Gloria. This is just a bunch of people that wanted to go have clean, safe, sober fun with other neighbors, friends, community members, and it got out of control," he said.
Hardick says the event did show up on a website run by Johnathan Hale, who is DeMaio's partner, but only because one of the website's reporters who had been invited to the event, posted it as an "out and about" thing to do on a Saturday night.