CHICAGO (AP) — Two people were killed and at least 30 others were wounded in overnight mass shootings in three states, authorities said Saturday, stoking concerns that a spike in U.S. gun violence during the coronavirus pandemic could continue as summer dawns and eased restrictions allow people more freedom to socialize.
Police arrested one suspect and were searching for another after a mass shooting on a crowded downtown Austin, Texas, street left 14 people wounded early Saturday, two of them critically.
The Austin Police Department said in a news release that the U.S. Marshals Lone Star Fugitive Task Force assisted in making the arrest, but it provided no other details other than to say it is continuing to follow up on leads for the suspect still at large.
No one was arrested in the other attacks, which took place late Friday or early Saturday in Chicago and Savannah, Georgia.
In Chicago, a woman was killed and nine other people were wounded when two men opened fire on a group standing on a sidewalk in the Chatham neighborhood on the city's South Side. The shooters got away and hadn't been identified as of mid-Saturday afternoon.
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.
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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 U.S. 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.
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.
According to a database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University, only three mass shootings occurred at public places — the lowest total for that category in a decade — out of 19 total mass shootings in 2020.
The database tracks all mass killings including shootings, defined as four or more people dead not including the perpetrator.
According to that definition, there have been 17 mass killings, 16 of those shootings, already this year, said James Alan Fox, a criminologist and professor at Northeastern University.
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 U.S. this year.
The GVA also found that shootings spiked in 2020 to about 600, which was higher than in any of the previous six years it tracked the statistic. According to this year's count, there have been at least 267 mass shootings in the U.S. so far, including the latest three overnight Friday into Saturday.