At least four people have died among 18 people people shot in a spate of shootings during an “extremely violent night” across the US city of Cincinnati, according to local media and police.
The bloodshed in the Ohio city of about 300,000 began when three people were shot at about midnight on Saturday (05:00 GMT) in the Walnut Hills neighbourhood.
Soon after, at about 12:30am (05:30 GMT) on Sunday, police were called to the Avondale area and found 21-year-old Antonio Blair with gunshot wounds. He was taken to University Hospital and died there, police said in a statement. Three other gunshot victims were also taken to the hospital.
Officers then responded to a report about gunshots in the Over-the-Rhine neighbourhood at 2:15am (07:15 GMT) where 10 people had been shot, police said. One man, 34-year-old Robert Rogers, died at the scene and another, 30-year-old Jaquiez Grantat, died at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
Local news outlets reported the shootings took place within 60 to 90 minutes of each other.
Assistant Police Chief Paul Neudigate told reporters they “seem to be separate independent incidents but horrific and tragic”.
Police did not immediately provide details about the fourth fatal shooting but confirmed that it occurred on the city’s West End, where television news reports indicated that one person was shot later on Sunday morning and was pronounced dead at the scene.
No suspect information was immediately available in any of the cases.
Neudigate described the series of incidents as “one extremely violent night in the city of Cincinnati”.
“Why? That’s going to be the question,” he said.
Later in the day, Cincinnati’s police chief called the spike in violence “unacceptable”.
“I am calling on all citizens of this great city to say enough is enough! We must not sit by silently and say we can’t do anything to end gun violence,” Eliot Isaac said in a statement. “We all have a moral obligation to stop the violence and stop the killing in our communities.”
Police said the department would shift officers from other assignments to beef up the number of uniformed officers in the affected communities and would call on federal prosecutors and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives “to focus on repeat shooters and aggressively bring illegal gun charges”.
The New York Times in July reported that an analysis of 25 large cities across the United States showed that while overall crime dropped by about five percent in the first five months of 2020, compared with the same period last year, homicides had risen by about 16 percent.
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley on Sunday called the most recent incidents “senseless gun violence that ruined lives and will cause immeasurable suffering” at a time the city was facing “unprecedented circumstances and challenges” in fighting crime during the coronavirus pandemic.
He said the city had seen an uptick in cases as people gather in private homes and public places when the bars close.
This must stop. pic.twitter.com/mwwUQd5tZ2
— John Cranley (@JohnCranley) August 16, 2020
“Guns are far too prevalent at these gatherings. Please do not attend gatherings because you could end up as an innocent victim,” he said in a statement.
He stressed, however, that those firing were responsible for the shootings – which he called “attempted or actual murder” – and pledged to bring them to justice.
“I am also calling on everyone to help put an end this culture of resolving personal disputes with guns as well as to reduce the far too prevalent availability of illegal guns on our streets,” he said.
“The very sad reality is people are getting in trouble when they have nowhere to go and nothing to do.”