(CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.) — Six teenagers were shot and wounded, two critically, Saturday night when multiple people opened fire in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee, during a confrontation between two large groups of young people, authorities said.
Chattanooga police officers were patrolling the downtown area at about 10:58 p.m. local time when they heard the gunshots and immediately responded to help those who were injured, Chattanooga Police Chief Celeste Murphy said during a news conference on Sunday.
“The officers observed multiple parties fire and then they observed multiple victims who had been hit by the gunfire,” Murphy said.
She said the officers immediately began rendering aid to the wounded and helping other juveniles get out of harm’s way.
Murphy said all six victims who were struck by gunfire were teenagers. She said four of the victims suffered non-life-threatening injuries and two remain “very, very critical.”
Police said early Monday that two victims were 15-year-old girls, while three 15-year-old boys and one 13-year-old boy were also shot.
The chief said no arrests have been made.
She said one person was detained as a person of interest but has since been ruled out as a suspect.
Murphy said investigators are combing through security video to try and identify suspects and determine what motivated the violence.
“They’ve been able to determine two groups were beginning to converge on one another in what appears to have been some type of altercation,” Murphy said.
She said two armed individuals from one group started firing upon the other group. She said only one of the people in the group being fired on was the intended target and “all the other victims that were shot were unintended” targets.
“At this time it does not seem to be any connection to anything gang-related. That’s not been officially ruled out, but there’s nothing indicating that at this time,” Murphy said.
Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly called the shooting “outrageous.”
“It’s ridiculous that I even need to publicly state that guns have no place in the hands of our kids, and that children should not be wandering around at night without supervision,” Kelly said.
The mayor praised the police who “acted quickly and decisively” to prevent more bloodshed.
“We’re fortunate that they were able to respond as quickly as they did,” Kelly said. “But the job of preventing kids from shooting each other cannot fall to the brave men and women of our police department.”
He said easy access to illegal guns is “killing kids, and our community has a responsibility to put a stop to it.”
“Parents also need to be responsible,” Kelly said. “If you know your kid has access to a firearm, you must intervene before someone, perhaps even your own child, ends up dead.”
He implored parents and caregivers to get actively involved in knowing where their children are at night and what they are doing.
Kelly said that in coming weeks, he plans to work with the city council to establish places in the city for juveniles to gather safely and also invest in youth mentorship and violence prevention programs.
“If you know a child, especially your child, has access to a firearm, you have a moral duty to intervene or call the police,” Kelly said.
He added, “As a parent, you are civilly and criminally liable for the violent acts of your child that you could have stopped.”
He said he is working with the police department and the local district attorney “to enforce existing laws that hold parents accountable for knowingly providing or allowing children access to guns that result in violence.”
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