At least one person was killed and 22 others were injured by gunfire overnight in Illinois, in a peaceful Juneteenth celebration turned deadly, police say.
An unknown number of suspects fired multiple rounds from multiple weapons into the large crowd of people gathered to celebrate Juneteenth, according to a statement from the DuPage County Sheriff’s Office.
Several other victims were injured in the chaos as people attempted to flee the area, and victims are being treated at hospitals in the area, the sheriff’s office said.
No suspects are in custody, police said.
The shooting took place around 12:30 a.m. in a parking lot in Willowbrook, about 21 miles west of Chicago.
A large group of people gathered for the celebration from around 6 p.m. on Saturday, and police were at the site to monitor the event, the sheriff’s office said.
The officers were called away around 12:25 a.m. to respond to a 911 call reporting a fight nearby.
“As deputies responded, they heard gunshots and immediately returned to the scene of the gathering,” the sheriff’s office said.
Witnesses said the parking lot was still filled with people when the sound of gunshots rang out and the scene turned chaotic. Some people started running.
Markeshia Avery, who was there at the time of the shooting, said she dropped to the ground.
“We dropped down until they stopped. They just kept going,” Avery told reporters at the scene. “After that, we literally scattered away and just started trying to check on everybody that we knew.”
Some of the injured were transported to hospitals by ambulance and others walked in, DuPage County Deputy Sheriff Eric Swanson told reporters Sunday.
At least 12 ambulances responded to the scene, Ostrander, battalion chief of the Tri-State Fire Protection District said.
Ten patients were transported to four hospitals with injuries ranging from graze wounds to more serious gunshot wounds, and two people were in critical condition, Joe Ostrander, battalion chief of the Tri-State Fire Protection District said earlier.
The motive behind the shooting is unclear and it is still an active investigation, Swanson said.
The incident is now one of 310 mass shootings in the US this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
‘At least 30 rounds went through my car alone’
Nichelle Peterson, who lives in Chicago, wept when she returned to the parking lot where Sunday’s mass shooting took place. The 27-year-old said she was grazed by bullets in her shoulder and forehead as her car served as a shield.
“I didn’t see anything, I just heard it and I felt it. At least 30 rounds went through my car alone. My windows were rolled down, a couple of bullets went through my windshield,” Peterson told CNN before speaking with detectives Monday. “I was in the back seat hiding and (bullets) just kept going across me, but I couldn’t get any lower.”
Peterson said her aunt was in the front seat and other strangers hid underneath her vehicle. She told CNN the bullets were coming from multiple directions.
“When the shots started going off, I was walking from the passenger side to the driver’s side and I ducked,” she said. “It was like 10 shots. Then, it kept going.”
Peterson said her friends helped her remove the bullet fragments, but paramedics who responded to the scene told her she needed to go to the hospital.
The injury from the bullet that grazed her forehead is the most painful, Peterson said. The bullet hit the same spot were she had a previous injury that required stitches, she said.
Despite the discomfort, Peterson said she has a “grateful heart” and so many reasons to give thanks.
“I graduate in five days from culinary school, and this happened seven days before I graduate. It’s a blessing to be here,” she said. “I am grateful. I am sorry for all the people that this happened to and the person that got killed.”
Spate of celebrations interrupted by gunfire
The Juneteenth shooting joins a growing list of celebrations interrupted by gunfire, like the graduation ceremony in Virginia, the NBA championship celebration in Colorado and the birthday party in California, all in the last month.
After the 2022 shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, less than 40 miles from Willowbrook, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law a ban on assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines in the state. The ban faced immediate legal challenges, but the Supreme Court refused an emergency request from gun rights advocates to block the ban in May.
“This shooting shows that even states with strong gun laws like Illinois are not immune from gun violence due to our incredibly weak federal laws and weak laws in neighboring states.” Kris Brown, president of Brady, the country’s oldest gun violence prevention organization, said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, because of the gun industry’s influence on our lawmakers, there is no place in America that’s safe from gun violence,” Brown said.
CNN’s Keith Allen, Cara-Lynn Clarkson and Tierney Sneed contributed to this story.