A gunman opened fire early Saturday in a “pre-pandemic” sized crowd in the entertainment district in downtown Austin, Texas, wounding at least 13 people before slipping away from the scene undetected.
There were no fatalities, but at least two victims were fighting for their lives, police said.
It was unclear what sparked the shooting. The shooter, believed to be a Black man with dreadlocks, appears to have fired randomly into the crowd at the 400 block of East Sixth Street, a popular entertainment district lined with bars and restaurants. The shots sent thousands scrambling for their lives. He manage to leave amid the confusion.
Police quickly began combing through video shot by bystanders and security cameras in the area, searching for more details about the shooter, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Cops nearby heard the shots and rushed to the chaotic scene.
“It was very difficult to contain the scene, it was very difficult for EMS to make their way into this crowd,” interim Austin Police Chief Joe Chacon said in a news conference. “And because of the nature of the injuries, officers had to go ahead and use their police vehicles to put some of these shooting victims into their vehicles and transport them themselves.”
Officers took six victims to the hospital in police vehicles, a statement from Austin Police said. Three victims were brought in personal vehicles and Austin-Travis County EMS transported four victims to local hospitals.
Police told the American-Statesman that the crowd in the city’s entertainment district at the time was near the size of a “pre-pandemic” group, meaning potentially tens of thousands of people gathered in the area. The paper noted that the city is hosting The Republic of Texas biker rally this weekend, which typically draws thousands of motorcyclists to the city’s entertainment district.
Chacon said there were streets cordoned off and there was a high police presence in the area before the shooting. “But what we have seen in recent months and over the last year or so is an increase in gun violence,” he said, “and so this is just emblematic of that.”
Police said it appears to be an isolated incident, but the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force was at the scene investigating “out of an abundance of caution.”