Juneteenth celebrations, graduation party, concert all marred by weekend gun violence

Around the country, shootings left at least five dead and two dozen injured.

June 20, 2021, 4:19 PM

Juneteenth celebrations this weekend in California, South Carolina, Michigan and Colorado, a high school graduation party in Philadelphia and a concert in Baton Rouge were all marred by gun violence as five people were killed and 24 were wounded, authorities said.

President Joe Biden signed a bill Thursday making Juneteenth a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States -- just in time for Saturday's June 19 anniversary. It's a day Black Americans have celebrated yearly since the Civil War era, and this weekend was the culmination of a decadeslong effort by advocates to get national recognition for the momentous development in American history.

But gunfire erupted around 6:22 p.m. on Saturday in Oakland, California, near where people were gathered by Lake Merritt for a celebration marking the first Juneteenth as a federal holiday. The Oakland Police Department said seven people were shot, including a 22-year-old man who died from his wounds.

Police estimated that more than 1,000 people were at the lake and that the shooting unfolded despite a beefed-up police presence for the Juneteenth celebration. Cellphone video showed people running and seeking cover from a barrage of shots.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, officers spotted and arrested two men running from the scene with firearms, according to a police department spokesperson.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf condemned the shooting and praised police officers for their quick response to the chaotic scene.

"A joyous occasion at our Lake Merritt was marred by a senseless act of gun violence," Schaaf said in a statement. "Police in the area tended to victims and apprehended two people with firearms near the scene. The investigation is ongoing and will determine if they are connected to the shooting. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victims."

At least three other Juneteenth celebrations across the country ended in shootings.

PHOTO: Police lights on a street at night.
Police lights on a street at night.
STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images

114 rounds fired at Colorado Juneteenth celebration

In Aurora, Colorado, an all-night Juneteenth party at a strip mall was ending around 4 a.m. on Sunday when multiple gunmen unleashed up to 114 rounds, leaving one man dead and four other people wounded, according to police officials.

Aurora police said no arrests were made.

Aurora Mayor Mike Coffman said on Twitter that the shooting prompted him to schedule an emergency study session with Police Chief Vanessa Wilson "on the level of gun violence in our community and what actions the department is taking to bring it down."

Teenager shot at South Carolina celebration

In Clover, South Carolina, three people were shot around 11:30 p.m. Saturday at a Juneteenth celebration, including a 17-year-old who was seriously injured and airlifted to a hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina, according to the York County Sheriff's Office. Authorities said several cars were also struck during the shooting.

No arrests have been made, and a motive for the attack remains under investigation.

Woman dies in shootout with cop at Juneteenth parade

In Flint, Michigan, a 19-year-old woman was shot and killed by a police officer near a Juneteenth parade after she allegedly opened fire on the officer, authorities said. The shooting unfolded just after 2 p.m., when the woman, whose name was not immediately released, was in her car and allegedly fired at least one shot as she approached the officer, who was working a traffic point at the Juneteenth parade, according to Michigan State Police, which is investigating the incident.

The officer, who was not injured, returned fire, striking the assailant, police said. The woman was pronounced dead at a hospital.

A motive for the shooting is being investigated, police said.

2 shot dead following concert

Meanwhile, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police are investigating a shooting that broke out when a fight erupted after a concert.

The shooting happened around 2 a.m. Sunday, as people were leaving the concert at the Capital Park Bar & Grill, according to Sgt. L'Jean McKneely Jr. of the Baton Rouge Police Department. McKneely said investigators believe multiple people drew guns and opened fire in a parking lot near the concert venue.

The two people killed in the shooting were identified by the police as Kyren Walton, 25, and Ladarius Alexander, 20. Four other people were shot and wounded, police said.

Police were working Sunday to identify the suspects and determine the motive of the shooting.

3 shot at graduation party

In Philadelphia, three people were shot when multiple shooters fired up to 50 shots at 30 people attending a high school graduation party, police said. The shooting broke out about 7:25 p.m. Saturday at a house in West Philadelphia.

Injured in the shooting were a 36-year-old woman, a 21-year-old man and an 18-year-old man, police said. No one has been arrested in the shooting.

"Obviously, multiple weapons are involved here," Inspector D.F. Pace of the Philadelphia Police Department said at a news conference near the scene of the shooting. "Naturally, you have a family that is gathering to celebrate the advancement of one of their kids having graduated high school, and they have to suffer this. It's unconscionable."

The episode came just five hours after two men were fatally shot and a 3-year-old child was wounded in the Overbrook section of Philadelphia. The shooting occurred in a street at about 2:30 p.m., and police said it appears the child was caught in the crossfire and was hit multiple times in the legs. No arrests were made, and the names of the two men killed were not immediately released.

Similar to other large cities across the country, Philadelphia has seen a 27% increase in shootings in the first half of 2021 compared to the same time period in 2020, and homicides are up 37% over last year, according to the police department.

While current national data on violent crime from the country's 18,000 police agencies lags behind, there have been marked increases in 2021 in some cities, such as New York City, which experienced a 77% surge in shootings and a 17% increase in murder through the end of May. More than 1,500 people have been shot in Chicago so far in 2021 -- an 18% increase from the same time period last year, according to the city's data.

The Atlanta Police Department said last week that its homicide cases in the first five months of 2021 were up 58% over the same period as last year. Baton Rouge has reported more than 70 homicides this year compared to 51 in all of 2021, according to police.

At least 137 children aged 11 and younger have died in shooting this year, and another 343 have been injured, according to the Gun Violence Archive, an online database that tracks shootings across the country.

"As many of us began the day celebrating Juneteenth for the first time as a federally recognized holiday, we again found ourselves lamenting as an otherwise beautiful afternoon had been sullied with gun violence," Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said in a statement.

Outlaw said she is especially outraged by the shooting of the child.

"Every act of gun violence is tragic. However, it is especially disturbing and sickening when the victims are among our most vulnerable," Outlaw said. "We should never tolerate violence against our children, as all of us -- not just the police -- are charged with the responsibility to keep them safe from danger and harm."

Related Topics