Three women and a man were stabbed in downtown Boston early Friday, a violent incident that transformed a busy section near Downtown Crossing into a sprawling crime scene with bloodstains in a historic alley and inside a 24-hour drugstore.
The incident began around 3 a.m. in Spring Lane, a broad red-bricked alley that runs between Devonshire and Washington streets, where the four people got into a fistfight, followed by a wave of stabbings that injured at least two women, one of whom was stabbed in the neck and the other in the stomach, according to Boston police and witnesses.
Boston police spokeswoman Officer Rachel McGuire said one of the women suffered life-threatening injuries, and all four victims have been hospitalized. Two suspects — a man and a woman — are in custody, she said, and criminal charges are pending.
The two women fled from the alley across Washington Street, past the Irish Famine monument, and into the massive Walgreens store where they pleaded with workers to give them shelter and to call 911, according to the store manager and Boston police.
“The two young girls came into the store, bleeding, with a lot of blood all over them,’’ said Mohamed Diakhate, night manager at Walgreens for the past 13 years. “They needed help, so that’s what we do. I told my co-workers to call 911, so that’s what we do.’’
Diakhate said he and co-workers provided first aid to the victims, especially the most seriously injured woman who was bleeding from a wound on the left side of her neck. Diakhate said he is familiar with some of the people who live in the neighborhood, but he did not recognize either of the women.
The aftermath of the incident was visible inside the store, where blood and a small pile of crumpled and bloodstained paper towels remained after police allowed the store to reopen around 7:15 a.m.
“It was scary,’’ Diakhate said.
Rebecca Carey was sleeping in an alcove in front of the Old South Meeting House early Friday when she was awoken by sirens from arriving Boston Emergency Services ambulance crews.
“I heard, like, ambulance crews going by and I looked over at Walgreens and saw, like, two stretchers going into Walgreens,’’ she said.
“I thought it was just somebody passed out, but then I saw the cop cars coming and they started putting crime scene tape up.”
She said she saw the victims being taken out of the store and into the waiting ambulances.
“It’s insane,’’ she said.
Boston police removed the crime scene tape that had sealed off the neighborhood — and forced the closure of the Washington Street and Devonshire Street exits of the MBTA’s State Street station while the crime scene investigation was underway.
A law enforcement official briefed on the case said the altercation started as a disagreement among homeless people over drugs, and all of the victims knew one another.
Boston EMS responded to the Walgreens store around 3:12 a.m. and transported two people from that scene to a local trauma center, EMS Lieutenant Edward McCarthy said.
At nearly the same time, EMS was called to a scene just a couple of blocks away, where two more people were found with injuries from a stabbing. They were also transported.
Spring Lane is named for the spring that provided fresh water in 1630 to the Puritans and Europeans who founded Boston.Felicia Gans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Emily Sweeney can be reached at email@example.com. John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@ globe.com.