Four people were shot and injured on Sixth Street in downtown Austin early Sunday as the first in-person South by Southwest in two years drew to a close.
All four victims were hospitalized with minor injuries, officials said. Officers arrested a suspect, but police officials declined to name the person or say what charge the suspect is facing.
Police responded around 2 a.m. to a “shots fired” call in the 400 block of East Sixth Street. As first responders swarmed the scene, the city issued an alert on social media.
“There is an emergency near 6th and Trinity,” city officials posted on Facebook and Twitter. “Calmly leave the area now, and follow instructions from uniformed emergency responders. Stay away until further notice.”
According to witness interviews, two groups of people started arguing, and then shots were fired in the crowd, police said.
First responders took the victims to a “casualty collection point” and then by ambulance to a hospital, Austin-Travis County EMS officials said.
By 7 a.m. Sunday, officers had cleared the scene.
The casualty collection point — in the 200 block of East Fifth Street — was a staffed base created to address any medical emergencies during large festivals and events downtown, said Capt. Darren Noak, spokesman for Austin-Travis County EMS. It has been a staple of SXSW emergency response for years.
Before the shooting, police had made a total of 31 arrests and had seized 19 firearms downtown, Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday said.
A shooting occurred in the same area in June, when at least one gunman opened fire, killing one man who was a tourist from Michigan and injuring 13 other people.
In July, another shooting on Sixth Street left two women injured. A third shooting happened weeks later, and 22-year-old Dyvyne Ware died after he was shot at Sixth and Neches streets, according to police.
Earlier this month, Police Chief Joe Chacon told CBS Austin that detectives and specialized officers would be pulled off their regular assignments to patrol the festival downtown.
Austin’s safety plan for Sixth Street nightlife
The mass shooting in June raised concerns after paramedics said they could not maneuver their vehicles through the crowds to attend to those who were injured. Some police officers drove victims to hospitals in patrol cars.
Council Member Kathie Tovo, who represents the downtown district, sponsored a safety plan for the entertainment district after the shooting.
The plan created the city’s rescue task force, which consists of two Austin police officers, a firefighter and a medic on a utility task vehicle who can respond quickly to active attacks. The task force was part of the team of first responders who arrived at the scene Sunday.
“Not only do they help us get paramedics to the patient’s side faster, we’re able to do it in much lower profile vehicles,” EMS Cmdr. Kevin Parker said after Sunday’s shooting. “So when we’re dealing with pedestrians fleeing that scene, looking to get to safety … we’re able to move through those crowds a little bit easier.”
The plan also called for more street lighting and crafted an effort with the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission to curb underage drinking. It also threatened legal action against bars where repeated acts of violence happen.
Additionally, the City Council directed the city manager’s office to work with bars to encourage written safety plans, training for door staffers and increased communication with the Police Department.
Police are continuing to investigate Sunday’s shooting. Anyone with information about the incident can call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 512-472-8477 to receive a reward of up to $1,000 for information.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism