Two people have been killed and at least 30 others were wounded in overnight mass shootings in three US states.
It has raised concerns that a spike in US gun violence during the coronavirus pandemic could continue as summer dawns and eased restrictions allow people more freedom to socialise.
No one was arrested as of Saturday afternoon in any of the attacks, which took place late Friday or early Saturday in the Texas capital of Austin; Chicago; and Savannah, Georgia.
In Austin, authorities were searching for two men over an early Saturday shooting on a crowded pedestrian-only street packed with bars and restaurants.
Fourteen people were wounded, including two critically, in the gunfire, which the city’s interim police chief believes started as a dispute between two parties.
In Chicago, a woman was killed and nine other people were wounded when two men opened fire on a group standing on a sidewalk. The shooters also got away.
In Savannah, police said one man was killed and seven other people were wounded in a mass shooting Friday evening. Two of the wounded are children – an 18-month-old and a 13-year-old.
Savannah’s police chief, Roy Minter, Jr., said the shooting may be linked to an ongoing dispute between two groups, citing reports of gunshots being fired at the same apartment complex earlier in the week.
“It’s very disturbing what we’re seeing across the country and the level of gun violence that we’re seeing across the country,” he told reporters Saturday. “It’s disturbing and it’s senseless.”
The attacks come amid an easing of pandemic restrictions in much of the country, including Chicago, which lifted many of its remaining safeguards on Friday.
Many hoped that a spike in US shootings and homicides last year was an aberration perhaps caused by pandemic-related stress amid a rise in gun ownership and debate over policing.
But those rates are still higher than they were in pre-pandemic times, including in cities that refused to slash police spending following the death of George Floyd and those that made modest cuts.
“There was a hope this might simply be a statistical blip that would start to come down,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum.
“That hasn’t happened. And that’s what really makes chiefs worry that we may be entering a new period where we will see a reversal of 20 years of declines in these crimes.”
Tracking ups and downs in crime is always complicated, but violent crime commonly increases in the summer months. Weekend evenings and early-morning hours also are common windows for shootings.
Many types of crime did decline in 2020 and have stayed lower this year, suggesting the pandemic and the activism and unrest spurred by the reaction to Floyd’s death didn’t lead to an overall spike in crime.
The number of mass shootings in 2020 was the lowest in decades, according to a database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University that tracks mass killings. The database defines a mass killing as four or more dead, not including the shooter.
The Gun Violence Archive, which monitors media and police reports to track gun violence, defines mass shootings as those involving four or more people who were shot, regardless of whether they died. According to its database, more than 8,700 people have died of gun violence in the US this year.