A long holiday weekend of bloodshed has intensified after a heavily armed gunman in a bulletproof vest opened fire on the streets of Philadelphia on the eve of Fourth of July celebrations, in yet another mass shooting in the US, killing five people and wounding two boys before surrendering to the police.
Across the country, Texas was entering the holiday to news that another shooting had killed three people, in Fort Worth, occurring just before midnight amid a gathering in a parking lot that also wounded eight.
In Chicago, a total of five people were killed and at least 33 wounded in a rash of shootings across the city, coming one year after a shooter took seven lives at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, near Chicago.
Highland Park’s mayor, Nancy Rotering, has planned a musical performance, a moment of silence and a walk along the parade route on Tuesday afternoon to mark the 2022 mass shooting.
Also, police in Kansas on Tuesday said 11 people were hurt over the weekend when a gunman opened fire inside a Wichita nightclub.
The burst of gun violence and the prospects of more shootings as the day of parties unfolded threatened to overshadow Independence Day celebrations, underpinned with evidence that 4 July is the riskiest day for mass shootings in the US calendar.
The Philadelphia violence was the country’s 29th mass killing in 2023, according to a database maintained by the Associated Press and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University, the largest number on record by this time in the year.
The number of people killed in such events is also the highest by this time in the year.
Joe Biden decried the violence, in a statement from the White House on Tuesday, after he and first lady Jill Biden returned from Camp David.
He said: “Our nation has once again endured a wave of tragic and senseless shootings in communities across America. Today, Jill and I grieve for those who have lost their lives and, as our nation celebrates Independence Day, we pray for the day when our communities will be free from gun violence.”
Much more must be done across America to address the epidemic of gun violence that is tearing our communities apart
He praised Mayor Rotering and other leaders for pushing through a ban on military-style assault weapons for the general public in Illinois, adding: “Their achievement will save lives. But it will not erase their grief … Much more must be done in Illinois and across America to address the epidemic of gun violence that is tearing our communities apart.”
Biden urged other states to ban assault rifles and high-capacity magazines and once again called on Congress to renew a national ban on such weapons.
The nation was braced on Tuesday to see what the Fourth of July holiday itself would bring. In separate research, using data from the Gun Violence Archive, James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University, found that there have been 52 mass shootings on the Fourth of July over the past decade, averaging just over five a year, and more than on any other given day.
In Philadelphia on Monday night, the shootings in the Pennsylvania city that is no stranger to gun violence took place over several city blocks in the south-western residential neighborhood of Kingsessing.
Responding officers chased the suspect as he continued to fire, and he was arrested in an alley after being cornered and giving himself up, city police commissioner Danielle Outlaw said at a news conference.
“We have absolutely no idea why this happened,” Outlaw said.
No connection was known on Tuesday between the victims and the shooter. He was not only wearing body armor but also a ski mask and was carrying a high-powered assault-style rifle, multiple magazines of ammunition, a handgun and a police scanner, police said.
Officers were flagged down at about 8.30pm and multiple calls of shots fired came in from Kingsessing. Police found some gunshot victims, and as they were attending to them they heard more gunfire, Outlaw said. Police later told the local Fox 29 TV station that a fifth victim was found after he was apparently chased into his home and shot to death. Bullet casings were found outside the home and dozens more were scattered across an eight-block area.
The suspected gunman was identified by police as 40-year-old city resident Kimbrady Carriker, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, but on Tuesday there was still no motive suggested and the gunman was said by police to have appeared to shoot at random. He was expected to appear in court on Wednesday.
The victims were named by the authorities on Tuesday afternoon as Daujan Brown, 15; Lashyd Merritt, 20; Ralph Moralis, 59; Dymir Stanton, 29; and Joseph Wamah Jr, 31, all males. The two hospitalized wounded victims are boys aged two and 13.
Kingsessing resident Emma Hilton, 70, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that her neighborhood was getting more dangerous. “It’s getting worse. My kids [are] getting ready to take me up out of here,” she said. “It’s really gotten worse. It’s time to go.”
Philadelphia as a whole has recorded 212 homicides so far this year; however, that is down 19% from the same period in 2022.
In Texas, one person was pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting in Fort Worth and two others died in hospital, while the other eight were also hospitalized and their conditions weren’t known, CBS reported. Here, also, the reason for the shooting wasn’t immediately clear.
The authorities said later on Tuesday that several men had fired indiscriminately into a crowd of hundreds that had gathered in the Fort Worth neighborhood of Como following a festival in the area. No suspects have been identified.
Meanwhile, in Baltimore, police are still hunting for whoever shot two people dead and wounded 28 others in a weekend rampage at a block party.
There have been more than 550 mass killings since 2006, according to the AP/US Today database, in which at least 2,900 people have died and at least 2,000 people have been injured.