Nine people were shot in Providence’s Washington Park neighborhood late Thursday afternoon, in the largest mass shooting in recent history in Rhode Island’s capital city.
The shooting on Carolina Avenue involved rival groups who’ve been engaged in a violent feud, Police Chief Hugh T. Clements Jr. said in a news conference Thursday night. Police were called at 6:47 p.m. about shots fired after gunmen in a vehicle opened fire at people, some of whom returned fire, Clements said.
Officers arriving at the scene found “evidence of a large amount of gunfire,” including “several dozen” shell casings, Clements said, adding that up to four or five semiautomatic handguns may have been involved. “We also learned that there are several victims,” he said.
Some of the victims were driven to Rhode Island Hospital, which immediately locked down and diverted other patients from the emergency room, as police responded to the hospital and the crime scene.
Three victims appear to have injuries that are very serious, Clements said. “We don’t have the full extent of their injuries.”
There was no information on their conditions late Thursday.
The shooting was not random, the chief said, and he and Mayor Jorge O. Elorza deplored the violence. The people who were shot range in age from 19 to 25, the chief said. The incident raised the number of shooting victims in Providence to 28 this year.
Clements said the first shots came from a group inside a vehicle after it pulled up outside the home at 87 Carolina Ave. Those involved are well known to police “individually and as groups,” he said. Some of those injured may also turn out to be gunmen, he said.
The shooting comes as Providence has seen an increase in gun violence.
Just this year, police have seized about twice as many firearms in crimes as in past years, he said.
“We don’t shy away from the fact that we have a gun issue in this city,” Clements said. “It’s unfortunate that young men in this community have no regard for life, at times.”
The chief confirmed that this was the largest mass shooting in the city in recent history. This surpasses shootings in 2014, when five people sitting outside in the Chad Brown housing projects were wounded in a drive-by, and in 2013, when a gang member shot into a high school graduation party in the Hartford Park housing projects, killing a 12-year-old girl and wounding three women.
Thursday’s brazen shooting disturbed a sunny, late spring evening on an otherwise quiet street in a residential neighborhood near the Cranston border.
Carolina Avenue is lined with single-family homes and apartment houses close together, a few blocks from Johnson & Wales University’s Harborside Campus and Roger Williams Park.
The mayor said he assured the neighbors that there would be extra patrols. “This has to stop, these young people involved believing that the way to solve [problems] is with handguns. That can’t be the way,” Elorza said. “There are too many guns on the streets. ... We have to do something about it.”
Witnesses at the scene said multiple shots were fired. Evidence markers showing where more than a dozen shell casings littered the ground could be seen in the distance. Police sealed off the area.
Providence police detectives are investigating, and no arrests have been made, Clements said.
This story is developing and will be updated as more information becomes available.