SAVANNAH, Ga. – A manhunt was underway for the gunman who opened fire outside a residence here, killing one person and wounding seven in one of three weekend mass shootings across the nation.
Police Chief Roy Minter, Jr., says a driver rolled up late Friday and opened fire in a “disturbing and senseless” attack possibly linked to an ongoing dispute between two groups. Two people were in critical condition, and the wounded included an 18-month old child. More than 60 rounds were fired. Minter said there had been reports of gunshots being fired at the same apartment complex earlier in the week.
The death was the 14th homicide in Savannah this year. Last year this time there had been 18 homicides. But Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said violent crimes are up by about 12%, most involving non-fatal shootings.
The solution, Johnson said, isn’t more police on the streets. He emphasized the need for engaged residents to speak up when they see crime. Such action, Johnson and Minter said, might have pre-empted what developed Friday.
“We cannot police our way out of this and we do not want to be a police state,” Johnson said. “We recognize that police are our partners, but we have to be partners to the police.”
Chicago and Austin, Texas also saw shootings with multiple victims late Friday into early Saturday. The U.S. saw a spike in shootings and homicides last year, and many experts cited pandemic-related stress amid a rise in gun ownership and debate over policing. The numbers appear to be remaining high.
Nationwide, there have been 17 mass killings so far this year, defined as at least four people killed, not including the shooter, according to a USA TODAY/Associated Press/Northeastern University database. Sixteen of those were shootings.
“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 (police) chiefs worry, that we may be entering a new period where we will see a reversal of 20 years of declines in these crimes.”
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. Overall, according to its database, more than 8,700 people have died of gun violence in the U.S. this year.
The GVA also found that mass shootings spiked in 2020 to about 600, which was higher than in any of the previous six years it tracked the statistic. There have been at least 267 mass shootings in the U.S. so far, including the latest three overnight Friday into Saturday.
“It’s worrisome,” said James Alan Fox, a criminologist and professor at Northeastern University. “We have a blend of people beginning to get out and about in public. We have lots of divisiveness. And we have more guns and warm weather. It’s a potentially deadly mix.”
In Chicago, police were searching for two men who opened fire in a South Side neighborhood at around 2 a.m. local time Saturday, killing one woman and injuring nine other people.
In Austin, the shooting rampage early Saturday left at least 14 people injured. Austin police have since arrested one man, and a second suspect remains at large. Local residents and tourists shook it off, returning to the scene – the city’s iconic Sixth Street entertainment district – in droves Saturday night.
Austin resident Paige Wagner, an Austin resident waited in line outside the doors of the Vulcan Gas Company, a nightspot featuring live music.
“I’m ready to have fun and move past this,” Wagner said.
Contributing: Grace Hauck, USA TODAY; Marnie Muñoz, Austin American-Statesman; The Associated Press