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Biden decries July 4th holiday gun violence after at least 13 die in Fort Worth and other cities

Spent shell casings are shown on the street in Philadelphia early Tuesday, July 4, 2023 in Philadelphia.  Police say a gunman in a bulletproof vest has opened fire on the streets of Philadelphia, killing several people and wounding two boys before he surrendered to responding officers.
Tassanee Vejpongsa/AP
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AP
Spent shell casings are shown on the street in Philadelphia early Tuesday, July 4, 2023 in Philadelphia. Police say a gunman in a bulletproof vest has opened fire on the streets of Philadelphia, killing several people and wounding two boys before he surrendered to responding officers. (AP Photo/Tassanee Vejpongsa)

Fort Worth Police say a shooting at a neighborhood gathering in west Fort Worth just before midnight Monday left three people dead and several others wounded. The shooting in Fort Worth was one of several nationwide over the July 4 holiday that prompted President Joe Biden to issue a statement decrying gun violence.

According to police, shots were fired into a crowd of several hundred people near the 3400 block of Horne Street in the Como neighborhood, where the annual ComoFest was held earlier in the evening.

Eight people are at area hospitals in unknown conditions, according to police. Out of 11 victims, 10 are adults and one is a juvenile.

Cynthia Santos, 22, and Paul Timothy Willis, 18, were identified as two of the three victims killed at the gathering, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

A gunman wearing a bulletproof vest killed five people and injured two more Monday eveningin Philadelphia, according to police. Five people had been fatally shot and more than 30 others wounded over the July 4 weekend in Chicago, according to news reports. And in Baltimore Sunday, two people were killed and 28 others injured at a neighborhood block party.

Five people also were wounded at a party in Lansing, Mich., early Tuesday. Almost a dozen people were injured in a shooting incident in Wichita, Kan., early Sunday. Andin the nation's capital early Wednesday, nine people were injured in a mass shooting early Wednesday.

“Over the last few days, our nation has once again endured a wave of tragic and senseless shootings in communities across America — from Philadelphia to Fort Worth, Baltimore to Lansing, Wichita to Chicago. Today, Jill and I grieve for those who have lost their lives and, as our nation celebrates Independence Day, we pray for the day when our communities will be free from gun violence," Biden said in a written statement.

He also noted that July 4 “marks one year since a shooter armed with an AR-15-style weapon fired upon a crowd of Americans gathered for an Independence Day parade in Highland Park, Illinois. In mere moments, this day of patriotic pride became a scene of pain and tragedy.”

Fort Worth police said in a written statement Tuesday that officers responded to the shooting about 13 minutes before midnight Monday.

"Several unknown males were reported to have started firing into the crowd indiscriminately and then fled the scene," according to the statement. "Multiple police units were staged nearby and responded quickly, along with EMS units."

The first officers on the scene "located multiple victims." One was "declared deceased" at the scene and two others died from their injuries at local hospitals.

"Eight additional persons were treated for gunshot wounds at three different area hospitals," according to the statement.

Homicide detectives began their investigation soon after the shooting and "continued to pursue several leads" Tuesday.

"As of now, detectives have not yet identified the suspects but can confirm that none of the injured were suspects in the shooting," officers wrote in the statement.

In a statement posted on Twitter Tuesday morning, Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker said she is "devastated by the news of a mass shooting."

U.S Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth said she was “heartbroken” for the victims.

“I am heartbroken for the victims of the Fort Worth shootings and the entire Como community,” Granger said in a Twitter statement. “My heart goes out to the families dealing with this loss and to our law enforcement as they work to protect us all from senseless crime.”

U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, also shared a statement on Twitter, calling the shooting in Como and a separate one near downtown Fort Worth that wounded three men "senseless acts of violence," adding that "[we] must do all we can to end gun violence and save lives."

Police said the shooting was "separate from and unrelated to ComoFest, a community event that occurred earlier in the day at another location."

Jared Williams, who represents Como on the Fort Worth City Council, said the ZIP code that includes Como and many other neighborhoods is part of a major effort to reduce teen gun violence called the One Second Collaborative.

But Williams cautions that mass shootings like the one in Como are not unique to the neighborhood.

Significantly reducing gun violence, he said, will take political will and coordination.

“We have seen that mass shootings can happen anywhere and do happen anywhere, from Allen to Uvalde and the list goes on across this country,” he said. “I think it’s important that we recognize the need for bold city investment…and I think we also have to lean on our lawmakers at the state and federal level because certainly cities and organizations and neighborhoods can’t do it alone.”

Williams also sought to distance the ComoFest event from the shooting that happened after it had ended.

“[The shooting] was not affiliated with all the great planning that took place with ComoFest, so I’m cautious about connecting the two. But I am also mindful that we have a responsibility as community leaders to continue to consider safety in the planning that we do from year to year,” Williams said.

ComoFest has been held for the last few years as a family-focused event with live music and local vendors, building on a decades-long tradition of Como residents gathering on July 3 celebrations followed by a Fourth of July parade.

“You have generations of people – family and friends – from Como coming together in a homecoming fashion to celebrate not only the Fourth of July…and to celebrate the history and legacy of Como,” Williams said.

He said the ComoFest organizers — LEGACY Lake Worth, a neighborhood group focused on community pride and youth mentorship — take great care to plan with public safety in mind, and that the shooting happened well after the event had ended.

In 2020, community members raised alarm about what was seen as heavy-handed police presence around the July 3 festivities. LEGACY launched ComoFest the following year, partially in response.

Leon Reed, Jr., a lawyer and community activist who sits on the Como Neighborhood Advisory Council, said it’s common for people who aren’t from the area to gather late at night after the festivities have ended.

In previous years, violence broke out late at night. In 2021, eight people were injured in a late-night shooting at a nearby carwash after the ComoFest festivities wrapped up.