WASHINGTON: A violent altercation that escalated into gunfire in downtown Seattle left one woman dead and six other bystanders wounded outside a fast-food restaurant on Wednesday (Jan 22), and police said they were searching for at least two suspects.
The precise circumstances of the shooting, what precipitated the bloodshed and the number of people involved remained murky hours after the incident, which unfolded in a busy shopping district during the evening rush-hour.
The violence, which investigators deemed was "not a random incident," grew out of a dispute in front of a McDonald's restaurant, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best told reporters at a briefing near the crime scene.
"People pulled out guns, shots rang out, people ran in various directions," she said.
The chief added there were "multiple people involved as shooters" who apparently fled the scene, but she declined to specify how many suspects police believed were at large.
"We've locked down the scene. We have no active shooting at this point ... so everything is safe for the night."
It was the third shooting in the area in less than two days, and the latest incident of gun violence that has affected churches, cinemas and other public places in the United States.
Seattle television station KOMO-TV, citing witness accounts, reported that two men were seen arguing on the street before pulling guns on each other and opening fire as pedestrians around them scattered for cover.
All of those hit by gunfire were believed to have been bystanders, authorities said.
KOMO-TV quoted an office worker identified only as Bill as saying he heard gunfire and saw scores of people running for cover.
"It was sheer panic," he said. "I've never seen anything like it."
"Detectives are investigating after six people were wounded by gunfire, one fatally," Seattle police said on Twitter.
"The suspect(s) fled the scene."
Tyler Parsons, an employee at Victrola Coffee Roasters, told The Seattle Times that he was working when he suddenly saw victims falling to the ground as shots rang out.
He said several people ran into his shop to seek cover and he saw two people with gunshot wounds.
"The shooting was just kind of terrifying. Terrifying it's so close," he told the paper.
One body covered with a white tarp could be seen in TV images lying on the sidewalk in front of the McDonald's two hours after the shooting.
It was unclear if any of the victims were tourists.
Police ordered people to stay out of the area and shut down a subway station as they searched for one or more suspects.
A Fire Department spokesman described the fatality as a woman about 40 to 50 years of age, who was found dead at the scene.
KOMO-TV said a 9-year-old boy was among the wounded.
Seven victims had been brought to Harborview Medical Center's emergency room, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Susan Gregg, a spokesperson for Harborview Medical Center, said a 55-year-old woman shot in the abdomen was rushed into surgery and the boy, who was shot in the leg, was in serious condition. The other victims - five males - are in satisfactory condition, she said.
Gregg added that the nature of the injuries varied from grazing wounds to life-threatening injuries.
One witness interviewed by local media said he had seen two men arguing loudly before they started shooting at one another, hitting bystanders.
The police department said officers and medics were providing aid to victims at the scene.