Three people were killed and 11 others wounded in a mass shooting late Saturday night on South Street amid chaos that erupted on legendary blocks that have long been among the region’s most popular gathering places.
“Once it started I didn’t think it was going to stop,” said Joe Smith, 23, who was standing outside the Theater of Living Arts on South between Third and Fourth Streets when the shots rang out about 11:30 p.m.
“It was chaos,” said Eric Walsh who was closing up the outdoor seating area of O’Neals, a bar near Third and South. He saw a young woman collapse to the ground on the corner.
“People were coming off the street with blood splatters on white sneakers and skinned knees and skinned elbows,” said a visibly shaken Walsh. “We literally just were balling up napkins and wetting them and handing them to people.”
Officials had not released the identities of the dead, saying only that one was a 25-year-old man and another a 22-year-old woman. The names and conditions of the wounded, seven of whom were taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, were unavailable. Other victims were taken to Pennsylvania Hospital and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center.
The mayhem appeared to stretch for several blocks, where smashed car windows and knocked-over trash cans were evident.
A police commander said officers first heard numerous gunshots near Second and South Streets and saw multiple shooters.
An officer fired at one of the shooters, who was still firing a gun into the crowd, said Philadelphia Police Inspector D.F. Pace. The shooter dropped the weapon, which Pace said had an extended magazine.
It was not clear if the officer struck the shooter, Pace said.
Police recovered two semi-automatic handguns from the shooting scene, he said.
Pace said numerous officers had already been detailed to patrol the busy entertainment hub during what he called a standard deployment during summer weekends. Saturday night almost always draws traffic to South Street, and on this night the weather happened to be especially pleasant.
“You can imagine there were hundreds of individuals enjoying South Street, as they do every single weekend, when this shooting broke out,” Pace said.
Police did not say whether they had a suspect in custody.
Some, like Smith, had come to attend a TLA concert by heavy metal band Dying Fetus. And the shootings occurred just a few blocks from the city’s Gayborhood, where outdoor bars and restaurants were packed with revelers on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the first Philadelphia Gay Pride Day.
When he heard the shots, Smith said he immediately thought of recent shootings in Buffalo, N.Y. and Uvalde, Texas.
“There was guttural screaming,” he said. “I just heard screams.”
Smith said he and others ran to Fourth and Bainbridge Streets, a block from South, amid mass panic and confusion. They waited for police to open access to the garage where they parked.
A shooting incident was reported earlier in the week at Fourth and South, but it was unclear whether it was in any way related to Saturday’s shooting.
Around 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, police said, someone fired multiple shots at the intersection, striking homes on the 400 block of Gaskill Street, according to a report by WPHL-TV. Officers at the scene found nearly 50 pieces of ballistic evidence that spanned several blocks.
No arrests were made, but the station said police were searching for a female suspect.
As for the Saturday night incident, Pace said authorities would have to wait until later on Sunday to access surveillance footage from nearby businesses that were closed at the time of the shooting.
Staff writer Diane Mastrull contributed to this article.