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Police in California’s state capital were searching for at least one suspect after the shooting as bars and nightclubs were closing early on Sunday morning (Sunday evening AEDT).
Sacramento Police Chief Kathy Lester said at a news conference that police were patrolling the area about 2am (7pm AEDT) when they heard gunfire.
When they arrived at the scene, they found a large crowd gathered on the street and six people dead.
Another 12 either took themselves or were transported to hospitals. No information was given on their conditions.
Authorities don’t know whether one or more suspects were involved and are asking for the public’s help in identifying who is responsible. Chief Lester did not give specifics on the type of gun used.
Authorities recovered “at least one firearm” from the scene, a police statement said, and urged witnesses or anyone with recordings of the shooting to contact police.
This is “a very complex and complicated scene,” Chief Lester said.
Chief Lester issued a plea to the public, asking for witnesses or anyone with recordings of the incident to contact police.
Investigators were reviewing videos from social media that appeared to show an altercation before the deadly incident, the police statement said.
“We are currently working to determine what, if any, relation these events have to the shooting,” the department said in the statement.
Shortly after the shooting, video was posted on Twitter that showed people running through the street amid the sound of rapid gunfire. Video showed multiple ambulances at the scene.
Kelsey Schar, 18, was staying on the fourth floor of Citizen Hotel when she said she heard gunshots and saw flashes in the dark. She walked to the window and “saw a guy running and just shooting,” Ms Schar told The Associated Press in an interview.
Her friend, Madalyn Woodard, said she saw a crowd in the street scatter amid the gunfire and a girl who appeared to have been shot in the arm laying on the ground. Security guards from a nearby nightclub rushed to help the girl with what looked like napkins to try to stanch the bleeding.
The shooting — which occurred just two blocks from the state Capitol — was decried by top political officials.
Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement that his administration was working closely with law enforcement.
“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,” he said.
“The scourge of gun violence continues to be a crisis in our country, and we must resolve to bring an end to this carnage.”
Sacramento mayor Darrell Steinberg said words could not express his “shock and sadness”.
“The numbers of dead and wounded are difficult to comprehend,” he said, on Twitter.
“We await more information about exactly what transpired in this tragic incident.
“Rising gun violence is the scourge of our city, state and nation, and I support all actions to reduce it.”
Residents were asked to avoid the area, which is packed with restaurants and bars, including the London nightclub.
Kay Harris, 32, said she was asleep when one of her family members called to say they thought her brother had been killed. She said she thought he was at London.
Ms Harris said she had been to the club a few times and described it as a place for “the younger crowd”.
Bars and clubs close at 2am and it’s normal for streets to be full of people at that hour.
Ms Harris has spent the morning circling the block waiting for news.
“Very much so a senseless violent act,” she said.
Steve Hicks was staying at the Citizen hotel with his fiancé and two daughters after attending a Tyler the Creator concert at the Golden One Centre. He said he did not hear gunshots but the sirens woke him up.
Police closed the streets around the club, with yellow police tape fluttering in the early morning breeze.
Berry Accius, a community activist, said he came to the scene shortly after the shooting happened.
“The first thing I saw was like victims,” he said.
“I saw a young girl with a whole bunch of blood in her body, a girl taking off glass from her, a young girl screaming saying, ‘They killed my sister”.
“A mother running up, ‘where’s my son, has my son been shot?'”