Fireworks celebrations were interrupted in multiple cities as panicked crowds fled suspected gunshots amid the ongoing epidemic of gun violence and mass shootings across the U.S.
The scenes unfolded after six people were killed and dozens more injured by a suspect armed with an assault rifle in the normally calm Chicago suburb of Highland Park on Monday morning.
In Philadelphia, police say two officers were shot during a Fourth of July celebration in the evening, prompting spectators to break into a run as fireworks continued to burst behind them.
Twitter users posted footage from the city’s Ben Franklin Parkway, which show event-goers screaming and running away from the Wawa Welcome America Festival. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the show had just begun before accounts of a shooting began to spread through the crowd, prompting a stampede down the roadway.
“I didn’t hear the shots, but the cops were like, ‘Run, run, run,’” one woman told local news station NBC10.
Police say the officers were injured in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum while working security at the event. A bullet allegedly grazed the forehead of one officer and improbably lodged in his cap; another officer was injured after a bullet grazed his shoulder. Both were discharged from the hospital later that evening.
It’s unclear where the shots were fired from, or if they were intentional, authorities said. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said she was “extremely grateful that this wasn’t worse than it was,” noting no one else was shot at the event.
No arrests have been made.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said he was continually worried about gun violence at large events, saying he was “waiting for something bad to happen all the time.”
“The weather was beautiful, the concert was beautiful, but we live in America and we have the Second Amendment and we have the Supreme Court of the United States telling everybody they can carry a gun wherever they want,” Kenney said at a news conference early Tuesday morning. “We have to come to grips with what this country is about right now. We had a beautiful day out there today except for some nitwit ... who has a gun and probably shouldn’t have had it.”
Other suspected shootings also prompted widespread alarm Monday night.
In Orlando, security video showed what appeared to be the start of a stampede, begun by two people running through a crowd before a flash appeared. People then started running away.
But Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón said authorities had found no evidence of shots fired, according to WESH 2 News.
Another panic was set off in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, after a fight broke out and firecrackers were set off, local police commissioner Thomas Carter told ABC 27 News. Authorities similarly found no evidence of gunfire amid the holiday celebrations.
“Next thing you know, we hear somebody yell ‘gun,’” one witness said. Children were separated from parents and grandparents during the chaos.
Police named 22-year-old Robert E. Crimo III as a person of interest in the Highland Park shooting, then said authorities had arrested him after a brief chase later on Monday. Videos that emerged from the bloody scene showed crowds sprinting away from rapid, heavy gunfire.
President Joe Biden reacted to the Illinois carnage by saying he and first lady Jill Biden were “shocked by the senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community on this Independence Day.” While he touted the bipartisan gun control legislation signed into law last month, Biden noted “there is much more work to do” to combat the problem.