PROVIDENCE — Nine people were wounded Thursday night during what authorities describe as a targeted gunfight between local street gangs that resulted in the largest mass shooting in the city’s history, officials said.
Police officials, local politicians, faith leaders, and nonviolence workers on Friday called for an end to the violence that has spilled into the city streets almost daily. Meanwhile, investigators said they were pursuing leads, and charges were expected later Friday or over the weekend.
A “bleak and somber night” had given way to a “gloomy day,” Police Chief Hugh T. Clements Jr. said Friday.
“The city of Providence and the neighbors on Carolina Street should not have to hear or witness this type of violence,” Clements said. “This is about one thing: illegal guns in the hands of young men who have no right to be in possession, never mind shoot those guns.”
He said he was withholding their identities and potential charges to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation. Some of the seven people who remain hospitalized will eventually be released into police custody, he said. The two men who have been released are also under investigation.
Investigators found 50 to 60 shell casings, seized eight firearms, and found the get-away vehicle ditched near Rhode Island Hospital, Clements said. They are reviewing videos and interviewing witnesses, even as the wounded refused to identify themselves or cooperate with detectives. The violent crime task force recognized them anyway, he said.
“When they are properly identified, they will be properly charged and it is our intention ... to hold them accountable to fullest extent of law,” Clements said.
Around 6:45 p.m. Thursday, four men in a four-door silver Dodge Ram with Tennessee plates slowly drove into the city’s Washington Park neighborhood and stopped outside the dark blue house at 87 Carolina Ave.,Clements said. The four men jumped out with guns drawn and started shooting at a group of people on the porch, firing off 40 rounds of bullets, he said.
Almost immediately, two people on the porch returned fire, hitting the four gunmen so quickly that one struggled to get back into the truck, which delayed their escape, Clements said.
People wounded in the shooting drove themselves to Rhode Island Hospital, which immediately went into lockdown and diverted other patients from its emergency room as police responded to the crime scene and hospital.
At Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, there was no advance warning about what was coming.
Nurses told the Globe they heard a car coming up the ramp to the emergency department, blaring its horn. Some ran outside to get the first gunshot victims out of the car and into the critical care bays. Then, an alert went out that there were more victims coming in. Five or six more. In about 20 minutes, nine shooting victims arrived at the emergency department, three of them critically wounded.
”All you can do is react,” said Dr. Nadine Himelfarb, who was the attending critical care physician Thursday.
Eight of the victims had gunshot wounds. A ninth person was injured “by something else,” Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Paré said Friday.
The victims include eight men and one woman, between 19 and 25 years old, Paré said. “Miraculously, no one has died in 50 or 60 bullets,” he added.
The shooting is believed to be connected to an ongoing feud between gangs in different neighborhoods.
One of the victims is 23-year-old David Carides, whose father, also named David Carides, owns the house on Carolina Avenue. Both were both shot last October while outside a house on Dorchester Avenue in Silver Lake, where the son was living. The police believe that the younger Carides is connected with a street gang in Silver Lake and was the intended target on Thursday. He has been out on bail on felony assault charges from North Providence last spring.
Thursday night, police used a search warrant to investigate the house on Carolina Avenue and seized six pistols and two rifles, Clements said. ATF was tracing the firearms.
The guns and the bullets will go to the crime lab at the University of Rhode Island, which will run ballistics tests and see whether they are connected with other shootings, Clements said.
The mayor on Friday urged the public to come forward with tips to help the police solve the crimes and prevent further violence.
“We have to address the issue of so many young people ready to use these guns, and often against each other,” Mayor Jorge O. Elorza said. “We’re seeing shootings and a disregard for life. We call on the community to be part of the solution. When there is a back-and-forth, someone knows who is responsible. Step up, speak to the police... Let the police officers do their jobs.”
Cedric Huntley, the executive director of the Nonviolence Institute, spoke of the hopelessness that young people are feeling. Workers from the Nonviolence Institute responded to the hospital Thursday night, as the victims were being treated.
The Nonviolence Institute has been doing this work for 20 years, Huntley said. He recalled when the mayor asked him a year and a half ago about what was happening in the city, and Huntley said he told Elorza that young people “just want to be seen and heard and want the same opportunities that we all want. But they lost hope. And we should all take responsibility for that.”
He added, “I take responsibility for that. Give them a resource. Give them an outlet. This is not normal. ... We have to see young people and we have to address the systemic issues.”
A neighbor who didn’t want to give her name out of fear for her safety told a Globe reporter Friday that there have been a lot of other incidences in the area. She said they need more community policing in the neighborhood — and that she didn’t think gun reform would do anything.
Clements confirmed Thursday that this was the largest mass shooting in the city in recent history. It 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 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.
None of the neighbor’s homes nor any passersby were hit by the gunfire.
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