AUSTIN, Texas – Austin police have arrested one man in connection with an overnight shooting that injured 14 people, officials said. The arrest was made by Austin police and the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force.
The arrest came after the city’s Sixth Street entertainment district, filled with revelers resuming post-pandemic life, again became the scene of chaos and bloodshed early Saturday, intensifying questions about public safety and gun violence in one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities.
Police previously said they had zeroed in on two suspects involved in a previous dispute and were rapidly working to arrest them.
Interim Police Chief Joe Chacon expressed confidence that investigators would soon be able to untangle more details about what prompted the gunfire and that suspects could face a range of charges that include attempted murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Authorities say the shooter appears to have fired randomly. Officials said they believe most of the victims, whose injuries ranged from moderate to critical, were innocent bystanders.
Among the 14 people injured, 12 were in stable condition and two were in critical condition.
Police said the shooting appears to be an isolated incident but that the investigation is ongoing. Investigators are being aided by the FBI and off-duty detectives from various units.
The shooting marked the most significant mass casualty incident emergency officials have responded to citywide since 2014 in an incident that also happened in the same area when four people died and 30 were injured after a man plowed his car into a crowded, barricaded street.
Other U.S. cities – including Chicago and Savannah – also saw shootings with multiple victims late Friday into early Saturday, which marked the five-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.
Austin-Travis County EMS medics responded at 1:25 a.m. to what they described as an “active attack.” When first responders arrived, they found people covered in blood and sprawled out on the street and sidewalk.
Medics took four people to the hospital by ambulance, Austin police took six others to the hospital and three were taken by private vehicle, EMS officials said.
“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. “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.”
Gun violence on the rise in Austin:City to accelerate prevention, intervention programs
As city marks 23rd homicide in 2021:Austin police to target gun violence
Police told the American-Statesman, part of the USA TODAY Network, 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 anchored by Sixth Street.
The Republic of Texas biker rally in Austin this weekend also typically draws thousands of motorcyclists to the city and the entertainment district.
At the time of the attack, “a large crowd of people began to disperse in the area,” police said in a statement Saturday.
“Officers initially located several victims who had sustained gunshot wounds and were injured,” and began treating people, police said.
Taylor Blount was at a bar on Sixth Street when he heard a barrage of gunshots.
“I only heard them from a single weapon and then everyone started running in different directions,” he said. “People were freaking out a lot, and there were some people crying, but most people were just freaking out.
Blount, 26, said he ran inside a bar, closed the door and locked it because he could not immediately determine where the shots were from.
Moments later, when he believed it to be safe, he said he went outside and saw police officers dragging a man who had been shot in the ribs to safety and then performing first aid on him. “It was very intense,” he said.
Chacon said the city has seen an increase in gun violence in recent months.
“So this is just emblematic of that,” he said. “And it’s something we’re trying to work to decrease.”