Six people were killed and 12 others were injured in a mass shooting in downtown Sacramento early Sunday, transforming a section of the city normally teeming with nightlife into a horrific crime scene of blood, shattered glass and grieving relatives.
The death toll, and the number of wounded, made the bloodbath in the vicinity of 10th and K streets the worst mass shooting in Sacramento’s history.
Police Chief Kathy Lester said the shooting, which followed a fight, left three men and three women dead. Officers have recovered a stolen handgun at the scene, she said, and “we have confirmed there were multiple shooters.”
She said there were no suspects in custody as of Sunday afternoon and stressed that the investigation was at its earliest stage. She said police cameras in the vicinity were able to “capture portions of the shootings.”
The shootings took place around the 1000 block of K Street, near a strip of nightclubs close to such Sacramento landmarks as Golden 1 Center and the state Capitol.
“We know that a large fight took place just prior to the shootings,” said Lester, who was sworn in as chief two weeks ago. She called the level of violence “unprecedented in my 27 years with the Sacramento Police Department.”
— Biblical Watchman (@Satoshian2) April 3, 2022
The shooting happened just after 2 a.m. The shooting scene was strewn across a two-by-four-block area, with broken glass and police markers on 10th Street from K to L, as officers work the scene; police were also investigating at 12th and K streets.
Family members who had amassed around cordoned-off streets, said the shooting erupted as bars and clubs were letting out for the night. Relatives and social media pointed to videos that showed bodies on the sidewalk after gunfire appeared to come from call speeding north on 10th Street.
Sacramento police said they’re aware of social media videos, including one “that appears to show an altercation that preceded the shooting. We are currently working to determine what, if any, relation these events have to the shooting.”
A law enforcement source said authorities were investigating whether automatic weapons were involved, and had begun studying downtown cameras and license-plate readers for potential clues.
Lester called it “a really tragic, unfortunate situation.”
She called it a “complex and complicated” scene that was “secure.” But she appealed to the public for help in identifying the suspects. “If anyone saw anything, has video or can provide any information to the police department, we are asking for their assistance.”
An information center was set up at City Hall, 10th and I streets, for relatives.
Shooting ‘difficult to comprehend’
It was Sacramento’s second mass shooting in weeks. In late February, a man shot his three daughters and a fourth person to death at a church in suburban Sacramento before killing himself. David Mora, who was subject to a restraining order that prohibited him from having a gun, fired an AR 15-style rifle in the incident.
Sunday’s death toll matches the worst mass shootings in the United States this year, according to a Washington, D.C., group called the Gun Violence Archive. Six people were killed in incidents in Milwaukee and Corsicana, Texas, according to the organization.
Sunday’s violence also matches the worst mass shootings in modern Sacramento history — the hostage drama at the Good Guys electronics store that left six dead, which happened 31 years ago Monday, and the 2001 incident in which Nikolay Soltys murdered six of his family members because he thought they were poisoning him.
Soltys was charged with seven counts of murder — including the murder of the unborn fetus his wife was carrying. He later killed himself in jail.
With 18 in all shot in the rampage, Sunday’s incident generated a fresh wave of demands from gun-control activists around the country, as well as elected officials in California, for more action to curb gun violence.
“Another Sunday, another shooting with mass casualties,” tweeted Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting in 2018.
Relatives search for loved ones downtown
As word of the shooting ricocheted through Sacramento, friends and relatives of potential victims descended on downtown, desperately seeking information from police.
One man, standing near 10th and J streets, said he feared that his sister’s husband was among those killed. The man had dropped off his sister Saturday night in the neighborhood. When he called her husband’s cellphone Sunday to find the couple, someone else answered.
Two other men standing nearby said they were trying to get information from police about a loved one feared dead or injured. They said his car was still parked by the Citizen Hotel but they couldn’t find him.
Pamela Harris and her daughter-in-law Leticia, who came to the scene with community activist Stevante Clark, had their worst fears confirmed.
They said Leticia’s husband, Sergio, had gone to a nightclub called London late Saturday near 10th and K.
“We just want to know what happened to him,” said Pamela Harris, Sergio’s mother. “Not knowing anything is just hard to face.”
“There’s just too many damn guns,” said Clark, who rose to prominence after his brother Stephon was shot to death by police officers in March 2018.
Minutes later, Pamela and Leticia Harris were taken behind the police tape at 9th and K streets by a law enforcement officer, who began talking to them quietly. Suddenly Pamela Harris cried out and they began hugging each other. Clark confirmed to The Bee that Leticia’s husband had died, and Leticia Harris said the family had just booked an Airbnb for a trip to Mexico.
Just a few feet away, Frank Turner was coming to terms with his own grief.
Turner said his 29-year-old son, DeVazia, who had been a regular at the London club, was among the dead. He expressed frustration and anger that he wasn’t able to get much if any information from police.
The owners of London issued a statement Sunday afternoon expressing grief over the shooting and added that the club “enforces strict security protocols and begins closing procedures at 130 a.m. While this incident occurred a block away, we will continue to make ourselves available to the Sacramento Police Department and provide any information we can during their investigation.”
Leaders share in sorrow
As the shock sank in, elected officials promised to do something to curb violence. But they were clearly grasping for answers.
President Joe Biden in a statement Sunday night offered his condolences to the victims and families, thanked first responders and urged Congress to work toward solutions on gun control, saying: “we must do more than mourn; we must act.”
“Our community deserves better than this,” said Councilwoman Katie Valenzuela, tears streaming down her cheeks at a hastily-called outdoor press conference a block from the shooting. Valenzuela’s district includes downtown.
“This morning our city has a broken heart,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg added. “This is a senseless and unacceptable tragedy.” Although no details were immediately available about the weapon or weapons used Sunday, he called for tougher laws on assault rifles.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state leaders quickly weighed in on the shooting.
“What we do know at this point is that another mass casualty shooting has occurred, leaving families with lost loved ones, multiple individuals injured and a community in grief. The scourge of gun violence continues to be a crisis in our country, and we must resolve to bring an end to this carnage,” Newsom said.
Witnesses described a gruesome scene after the gunfire.
“I just saw victims, victims with blood all over themselves running out with glass all over themselves,” said community activist Berry Accius, who rushed to the area after the shooting. “Their loved ones taking their last breath. It was hectic. It was crazy.
“Gun violence is a city problem, a city issue,” Accius said. “Old Sacramento, downtown Sacramento …. People are supposed to be going out, having fun.”
Hours earlier, people had been doing just that. Thousands gathered inside Golden 1 Center for a performance by Grammy-winning rapper Tyler, the Creator. It wasn’t known if any of the victims had been in attendance, but Steve Hicks, a Dublin resident who’d brought his daughters to the show, said he was awakened in his room at the Citizen by the sound of ambulances.
“Geez, this city’s going a little crazy,” Hicks said.
Shooting had ‘rapid fire, very rapid fire’
Sue Lockwood, 67, said she heard the shooting from her tent on the east side of City Hall, where she is living.
“A lot of guns going off and they were big handguns, they weren’t rifles,” Lockwood said, adding that she served in the Navy and was familiar with gunfire. “I was sitting up in my tent and I zipped it up and laid down. There was no foxhole. It went on for quite a while. There was a lot of gunshots. It wasn’t just some drunk guy.”
Video posted on Twitter showed people running through the street as the sound of rapid gunfire could be heard in the background. Video also showed that multiple ambulances had been sent to the scene with officers and other first responders tending to victims.
Ross Rojek had dinner downtown Saturday night at Grange Restaurant & Bar. Rojek, who owns Capital Books near the corner of 10th and K streets, said it was a notably busy Saturday night — largely from the bar and club scene in the area. Lately, he said, there’s been a “constant flow” of people at night.
“It gets really chaotic at night,” Rojek said. “During the day and the evening, it’s still a great place to go hang out, go out dinner, and shop.
“It’s just, the night is getting there.”
He woke up to news of the shooting and, like many others, went searching for information. His bookstore, which was cordoned off by crime scene tape, was closed Sunday, he said.
Rojek said he’s not deterred: “I’m not going to give up on the area.”
Steinberg sought to calm fears that downtown Sacramento was too dangerous for visitors. Golden 1 Center hosted major concerts Friday and Saturday, and the Sacramento Kings are scheduled to play the Golden State Warriors Sunday evening.
Two performances of the Broadway musical “Wicked,” a matinee and evening show, were set to go on as scheduled Sunday at the SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center. Broadway Sacramento, the organization presenting the shows, said police concluded the area was safe for theater-goers.
“Obviously, people look at this and say, ‘Oh my God, how dangerous is downtown?'” the mayor said. “Well, we want people to come downtown, and safely.”
He said the city is investing $8 million in federal COVID relief dollars in public safety, including enhanced lighting and other efforts. He said the City Council recent invested $5 million in youth programs aimed at curbing violence.
“I want to encourage our people to come downtown,” Steinberg said, adding: “Don’t stay out ’til 2 in the morning.”
An eerie, tense mood in downtown Sacramento
Still, a tense, fraught air hung over much of downtown during the morning amid signs of normalcy. As USA Track & Field masters runners finished their cool-down laps following a 10-mile road race, tourists sped away from their hotels, eager to bypass crime-scene tape. Cars that were stranded at the intersection of 10th and K streets were being towed away.
Steve Bell, an Atlanta resident who ran in the road race, said sirens woke him up at 2:30 a.m. But he didn’t think much of it until hours later, when his wife texted him in a panic. Although the race proceeded, he couldn’t help but think of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
“The other scary thing (was) not knowing where that shooter was,” Bell said. “Is this guy going to start taking runners out?”
Paul Slaikeu and his husband Martin, who were staying at the Citizen Saturday night in anticipation of a roller-skating competition in Citrus Heights, said they were awakened at around 2 a.m. by “a pop-pop-pop sound.”
“We heard a lot of popping and saw some flashes of light on the ceiling,” said the Healdsburg resident. “From our vantage point, there was a woman on the ground being tended to.”
He added that the gunfire was “rapid fire, very rapid fire.”
But even as loved ones were converging on the central city to scour for information, others were arriving downtown for regularly scheduled events late Sunday morning. Just east of the shooting scene, the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament was holding worship services, with congregants being told to enter through a rear door.
Meanwhile, families were strolling through Capitol Park, walking their dogs — close enough to the crime scene that one could see the blue police markings that indicated the locations of shell casings. Runners were jogging down L Street. Travelers were checking out of hotels, dragging rolling suitcases behind them.
By noon, dining areas in downtown were bustling with brunch traffic — two blocks from the shooting scene near Cesar Chavez Plaza, the sounds of DJ music was booming across from City Hall.
At dawn, Dennis Young, a 73-year-old downtown resident, was walking his 6 1/2 -year-old Chihuahua mix Barkley near the shooting scene early Sunday. He said he carries pepper spray to remain safe in the area and that the incident is the worst he has seen.
“I keep my distance, no guns or anything, but I see everything from hypodermic needles,” Young said. “Yesterday, I saw a steak knife and somebody stabbed on the sidewalk. It’s just issues, it’s just issues.”
In the afternoon the large police presence that blocked off an eight-block area, was reduced to two as police continued to process the scene. That closure kept the Sacramento Regional Transit’s Blue Line train offline from Globe to 13th Street Station.
Young said he began his walk about 6 a.m. at Capitol Mall and saw a huge police presence, and initially thought it was for a road race.
The race — the USA Track & Field event, conducted by the Sacramento Running Association, went on as scheduled, with an oddly upbeat atmosphere. Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” played over the loudspeakers at the starting line. The planned route had the runners crossing the Tower Bridge to West Sacramento, away from the shooting scene.
“I read about it, I still came,” said Cora Vang, a Sacramento resident who heard about the shooting Sunday morning before driving in with her running mates. “I didn’t tell them, though, about it until we were on our way here.”
The Bee’s Benjy Egel, Michael McGough, Don Sweeney, Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks, Savanna Smith and Daniel Hunt, and the Associated Press contributed to this story.
(c)2022 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)
Visit The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.) at www.sacbee.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.