INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Gunfire erupted as throngs were celebrating a mild St. Patrick's Day along a popular downtown canal in Indianapolis and at least five teenagers were wounded by shots, two critically, police said.
The shots rang out Saturday night near the Downtown Canal on the west side of this Midwest city shortly after 10 p.m., police spokeswoman Linda Jackson said in a statement. The canal with its pedestrian pathway and restaurants dotting the area is a popular gathering place and had been thronged during the weekend, reports said. Police said patrolling officers were already downtown and had gone to check on a report of young people fighting when they suddenly heard gunfire nearby, according to the statement.
Indianapolis Public Safety Director Frank Staub was quoted by The Indianapolis Star as initially saying that the sound of gunfire sent people scrambling and that police had stopped a car afterward. However, the police statement released early Sunday reported no arrests and made no mention of any car being halted or some initial media reports suggesting the gunfire had come from a car.
Indianapolis Police Chief Paul Ciesielski told the newspaper none of the teens' injuries were believed to be life-threatening and that investigators had talked to three of them, along with other witnesses.
"We have several good leads," Ciesielski said. "We hope to be able to bring someone in and make an arrest very quickly."
Police said three teens were taken to nearby Riley Hospital for Children. They were a 14-year-old boy shot in the chest, a 14-year-old boy with a gunshot wound to the face and a 16-year-old girl shot in the leg. The newspaper reported one had been released from the hospital Sunday morning. Police said the boy shot in the chest and the girl had been critically wounded.
A spokeswoman for Riley Hospital for Children told The Associated Press she could not provide any information on the teens until their names were released.
The two other shooting victims, both 17-year-old boys, were taken to another hospital, one with a gunshot wound to the back and the other shot in the leg, according to the police statement. They had both been released by early Sunday, police said.
The police statement did not indicate whether the reports of fighting were linked to the gunfire. Ciesielski said one factor that may have contributed to the violence was the number of teens who roam downtown on Saturday nights after Circle Centre Mall closes.
"Every Saturday, we have a lot of officers down there quite frankly babysitting the kids until they get on the bus and go home," he said. "It's really time the whole community step up ... It's not just a police problem. It's truly a community problem."
Jason Salim, who identified himself as a student living in apartments near the canal, told WISH-TV that he heard at least three gunshots.
"I thought it was fireworks ... after a few minutes I heard police cars come by," Salim told the station.
WISH-TV reported the shooting occurred near the Indianapolis Historical Society building, close to the canal, and that a wedding reception was being held at that complex Saturday evening. One wedding guest was approached by one of the victims out in a nearby parking lot, it said. Rick Dossey told WISH-TV he was at the reception when people reported they saw police cars approach from several directions, but he and other guests never felt in danger despite the nearby shooting.
"We were kept for a couple hours afterwards as (the) crime scene was being investigated," he told the station.
Local news photographs showed yellow tape surrounding a large, rainswept parking lot where police had blocked off a large area near the canal. At least a dozen police officers were at the rainy crime scene investigating overnight, and TV reports said there was a heavy police presence on the canal following the shooting.