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Police believe multiple gunmen were involved in Sacramento shooting that killed 6, wounded 12

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Dustin Gardiner

San Francisco Chronicle

Apr. 4—At least six people were killed and 12 wounded early Sunday in a downtown Sacramento shooting that erupted as the bars were closing around 2 a.m., felling bloodied victims on the street as terrified people dashed into the darkness to escape the gunshot flurries, officials and witnesses said.

By late morning, the area around the shooting — Ninth to 13th streets and L to J streets — was cordoned off while grieving family members rushed to the scene looking for answers from police.

Three men and three women died at the scene, and 12 others had varying degrees of injuries, Sacramento Police Chief Kathy Lester said in a late afternoon news conference. Police were seeking multiple shooters. The tragedy left Sacramento with “a broken heart,” in the words of its mayor, Darrell Steinberg, and President Biden described the result: “Families forever changed. Survivors left to heal wounds both visible and invisible.”

“We know that a large fight took place just prior to these shootings,” Lester said, “and we have confirmed that there were multiple shooters. We have located hundreds of pieces of evidence at the scene.

“The scale of violence that just happened in our city is unprecedented during my 27 years here at the Sacramento Police Department. We are shocked and heartbroken by this tragedy, but we are also resolved as an agency to find those responsible and to secure justice for the victims and their families.”

The shooting appeared to stem from a fracas among people coming out of bars, officials told The Chronicle, but it was not clear whether the victims were targeted before the melee broke out. Lester said one firearm — a stolen gun — was recovered from the scene.

The area of the shooting is a popular nightlife zone, near the Downtown Commons shopping mall and the Golden 1 sports arena. The arena hosted a concert by popular rap performer Tyler, the Creator on Saturday night. Four dance clubs are clustered on the block where the shooting occurred.

Witnesses described a scene of bedlam and terror as the rapid-fire fusillades rang out and people fell to the ground while others raced screaming from the area in confusion and panic.

Jeff Wall said he and a friend, out to “women-watch,” were at the corner of 10th and K when the shooting began across the street.

Wall, who lives nearby, said it sounded like 75 to 100 rounds popping off in rapid succession and then some return fire. He said he saw a woman get hit in the leg and collapse near a liquor store and one gunman shooting in the direction of a bar.

“He didn’t care who he hit, he was just spraying that crowd,” Wall said. “Everybody just scattered. People were running and screaming, and you could see people were dropping to the ground.”

Speculating that the shooter fled the scene on foot, Wall said he didn’t hear any cars screeching off.

Asa Pickett said he was outside with friends at around 2 a.m. after clubbing at Dive Bar when he got a “gut feeling” to move away from the crowd. Just after that, “I just heard like an automatic,” Pickett said. “It was at least 100 rounds.”

“People were running into each other, panicking and stuff, scattering around,” he said, estimating that there were about 400 people in the vicinity. “That was more dangerous, the way people were panicking.”

Pickett, his friends and about 20 others ducked into an alley, where everyone backed up to the wall, taking cover until everything calmed down.

By the time they emerged, Pickett said, “we could see just bodies.”

Dive Bar general manager Ken Twitty said he sent his staff to the basement and witnessed the panic as dozens of people fled east along K Street, diving for shelter in doorways and alleys and behind planter boxes.

“People just dropped to the ground to duck,” said Twitty, adding, “The cops swarmed from every angle, got out of their cars and quickly started checking for victims and suspects,” he said. Twitty said he’d been outside with his security team trying to disperse the crowd from the earlier scuffle when the gunfire erupted.

Berry Accius, a community activist with the nonprofit Voice of the Youth, hurried to the area early Sunday after being alerted about the shooting, and found bloody chaos. He described seeing a young woman holding her sister as she took her last breath.

“I saw a young lady with blood all over her clothing, bleeding from her forehead; a mother frantically asking law enforcement if her son was one of the victims because she knew he had been out (and) was getting phone calls,” he said. “Folks weren’t able to get paramedics, they had to go drive themselves to the hospital because paramedics were dealing with people with more critical injuries”.

Videos posted to social media depicted a grim tableau: uniformed officers bent over victims on the ground, performing CPR, as dozens of distraught people milled around and yelled in pain or grief while police tried to cordon off the area. Chief Lester said Sacramento and California Highway Patrol officers were on the scene in minutes and rendered emergency aid until paramedics arrived.

Among the dead was Sergio Harris, 38. Hours before the coroner officially announced Sunday night that he had been a victim, his wife Leticia Fields stood near Ninth and K streets on Sunday morning, waiting, since 3:30 a.m., for police to give her information about the death of her spouse of 12 years.

Tears rolled down Fields’ face as she recalled how a stranger had answered her husband’s cell phone and told their daughter he had been shot.

“It sounds like a lot of innocent people lost their lives tonight,” Fields said as she stood in the morning cold wearing a parka and sweatpants. “I’m taking it day by day. I haven’t told our 11-year-old yet.”

Around 8:40 a.m., detectives ushered Fields and about a dozen other family members behind yellow police tape. The group wailed as law enforcement briefed them, and Pamela Harris, Sergio Harris’ mother, cried out “my baby!”

Fields said Harris leaves behind three children, ages 5, 6 and 11, and was a man whose larger-than-life personality matched his big stature. She said Harris was a fixture in the downtown Sacramento club scene, known for his Instagram personality, entrepreneurial spirit and reputation as a peacekeeper.

“He was the person that keeps the peace with people,” Fields said. “He was very known in the community. He was very respectable.”

Regina Givens stood nearby and said Harris was a friend of hers. “All the young people in there were having a good time, and on their way out somebody was shooting at them, just plucking them,” she said.

By late afternoon, some bodies remained on the concrete as investigators picked through the broken glass, pools of blood and victims for clues.

One young man waited nervously all morning to find out whether his cousin was among the victims. He said he got a call early Sunday morning from his “auntie,” who told him his cousin was out on K Street when gunfire broke out — and that he hadn’t come home.

“I don’t really know how to feel, just blank. Without confirmation, s—, I don’t even know,” the young man said as he stood behind yellow police tape. “We all the way back here. They can’t even let us walk to the edge just to see.”

Five people were taken to UC Davis Medical Center after the shooting, senior public information officer Stephanie Winn said. She said she could not release information about their conditions, but that the hospital has the only local level one trauma center, so it probably would have received the victims in the most serious condition.

Dozens of blue evidence markers dotted the shooting area, and a cluster of yellow markers denoted where shell casings had fallen as officers pored over the scene.

“This morning our city has a broken heart,” Steinberg, the mayor, said at a late-morning news conference. “We must do more as a city, as a state and as a nation. This senseless epidemic of gun violence must be addressed.”

The mayor echoed others in lamenting that the shooting came as downtown is trying to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, hosting several recent concerts and shows. The mayor said he’d work on making the area safer, especially at night.

“This terrible event is only going to steel us and deepen our commitment to doing just that,” Steinberg said.

This was the worst mass shooting in Northern California since a gunman killed nine colleagues and himself in 2021 at a Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority rail yard.

The K Street corridor, once the capital city’s thriving entertainment and nightlife hub, has begun rebounding in recent months after the pandemic forced many businesses to shutter for the better part of two years. Roland Nelson, who owns Roland’s Top Model Salon about a block from the shooting site, worried the tragedy could harm the comeback.

“We didn’t need this attention,” he said. “We’re just trying to get this area back up and going.”

Nelson said he’s feared for some time that there’s not enough police presence on K Street to handle the crowds flocking to nightlife venues.

One video posted to social media, believed to have been taken as the shooting began, showed a crowd of men fighting on the sidewalk, with gunshots ringing out as some scuffled on the ground. It wasn’t clear whether the fight was related to the shootings.

Both Gov. Gavin Newsom and Biden put out statements bemoaning gun violence.

“Sadly, we once again mourn the lives lost and for those injured in yet another horrendous act of gun violence,” Newsom said as he offered “heartfelt condolences to the family, friends, and to the wider community impacted by this terrible tragedy.”

Pledging his administration would be working with Sacramento officials and monitoring developments, he said, “The scourge of gun violence continues to be a crisis in our country, and we must resolve to bring an end to this carnage.”

Said Biden: “We must do more than mourn; we must act.” He called on Congress to ban ghost guns and require background checks for all gun sales, among other steps “to urgently save lives.”

Sacramento police said they would be increasing patrols downtown, and that Sacramento Regional Transit trains in the area could be affected during the investigation. Dozens of businesses along K Street remained closed Sunday evening as police kept the area cordoned off.

San Francisco Chronicle staff writers Jessica Flores and Kellie Hwang contributed to this report.

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(c)2022 the San Francisco Chronicle

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