Three people were killed and 11 others wounded late Saturday in the US city of Philadelphia after multiple shooters opened fire into a crowd on a busy street, police said.
The nighttime barrage marked the latest mass shooting to jolt the United States, a country in the grips of a gun violence epidemic that shows no signs of abating even as lawmakers scramble for ways to reduce the carnage that has already claimed several thousand American lives this year.
Philadelphia Police Inspector D.F. Pace told reporters that two men and a woman were killed, adding that officers responding to the incident “observed several active shooters shooting into the crowd.”
“You can imagine there were hundreds of individuals enjoying South Street, as they do every single weekend, when this shooting broke out,” Pace said.
Numerous officers patrolling the popular nightlife area were already on the scene when the first shots were heard, a police deployment that Pace described as “standard” for the area on summer weekend nights.
A responding officer fired at one of the shooters, who dropped his gun and fled, though it was unclear whether the man was hit, Pace said.
Local media reported that no arrests had been made, and that as of Sunday morning the streets where the chaos erupted remained closed.
Pace said two semi-automatic handguns, one with an extended magazine, were recovered at the scene.
He added that police would have to wait until morning to review surveillance footage from nearby businesses that were closed on Saturday night.
Pace described the investigation as “fluid,” saying there were still “a lot of unanswered questions.”
The United States has been rocked by a series of high-profile mass shootings in recent weeks, including at a school in Uvalde, Texas, a church in California, a grocery store in New York and a hospital in Oklahoma.
The incidents have collectively left dozens dead.
Bystander Joe Smith, 23, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that his mind had flashed to the recent incidents when he heard the first shots ring out on Saturday.
“Once it started, I didn’t think it was going to stop,” he told the outlet.
“There was guttural screaming,” he added. “I just heard screams.”
Another witness, Eric Walsh, described to the Inquirer scenes of people fleeing the shooting “coming off the street with blood splatters on white sneakers and skinned knees and skinned elbows.”
The Inquirer reported that another person was fatally shot just blocks from the scene about two hours later, but police said that the two incidents were not believed to be linked.
During warmer months, gun violence tends to spike in the United States, where there were an estimated 393 million guns in circulation in 2020, more than the number of people.
US President Joe Biden last week forcefully called for new gun control legislation in response to the recent violence, lamenting the “everyday places that have become killing fields, battlefields here in America.”
Over the last two decades, “more school-age children have died from guns than on-duty police officers and active duty military combined. Think about that,” Biden said.
A bipartisan group of US senators met on Thursday to discuss a package of firearms controls, but Republicans have historically resisted tougher gun laws.
Gun violence in the United States has killed 18,564 so far in 2022, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks shootings nationwide.
Nearly 10,300 of those have been suicides, it reported.
Since the Uvalde massacre on May 24 at least 26 new mass shootings have taken place, according to the archive.