Officials say they don’t know why a gunman firing a high-powered rifle killed his sister and eight others and credit police for ending the shooting rampage less than a minute after it started in the popular Historic Oregon District in Dayton, Ohio, overnight.
The suspect, identified as 24-year-old Connor Stephen Betts of nearby Bellbrook, Ohio, arrived at the crowded entertainment district in the same car with his sister, 22-year-old Megan Betts, and a male companion and became separated, officials said in a late Sunday afternoon news conference.
Just after 1 a.m., Connor Betts emerged wearing a mask, bulletproof vest and hearing protection, and brandishing a .223 caliber rifle with 100-round drum mags and a shotgun. Officials said Betts sprayed the crowd that filled the street, killing nine and wounding 27 - including the male companion. Police stationed nearby ran to confront the gunman and engaged him within 20 seconds after the first shots as he continued to fire and attempted to enter a bar.
A sergeant and five officers fired a total of six shots and killed Betts with blasts from a shotgun and patrol rifle combo.
Dayton Police Chief Richard Biel said they couldn't tell if Betts targeted his or if she was collateral damage, and they didn't know why they separated and what Betts did while they were no longer together.
Hundreds of screaming people fled in panic or cowered behind buildings and flowers stands when the shooting started. When it was over, bodies were strewn along the street and partygoers tended to the survivors until paramedics arrived. A short time later, police began dropping dozens and dozens of yellow markers on the street where bullet casings were found, leaving a haunting scene.
"My older sister, she was outside, smoking a cigarette and she had came upstairs... and was like, 'They're shooting outside,'" Nikita Papilion said. "All you seen [sic] was people going left, right, forward, backwards, any direction that they could go, running, trying to take cover, hiding in the bathrooms."
It was the second mass shooting in the United States in fewer than 24 hours and the third in eight days.
Betts ordered the .223 on line in Texas and had it delivered to a local gun dealer. The shotgun was purchased legally from a different local gun dealer.
Medics established a triage station near the scene shortly after the incident, and FBI agents were helping Dayton officers investigate.
A representative from the Kettering Health Network said four of their hospitals in the area treated 13 victims from the shooting. Their conditions range from fair to serious.
Dayton PD, with the help of Dayton firefighters, set up a family assistance center at the Dayton Convention Center.
Mayor Nan Whaley said she commended Dayton's first responders, and she said if officers hadn't responded "in less than a minute," many more might have died.
"It is a terrible day for Dayton, but I am so grateful for Dayton Police's fast action," Whaley said.
She said the coity would hold a vigil at 8 p.m. Sunday on Fish Street.
I’m heartbroken. Thank you to our first responders for all that you’ve done. We will share updates as we have more information.
— Nan Whaley (@nanwhaley) August 4, 2019
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said he is "heartbroken over the horrible attack" and has ordered flags across the state to remain at half staff.
"We join those across Ohio and this country in offering our prayers to victims and their families," DeWine said. "I commend Dayton Police and other first responders for their bravery and quick response to save lives and bring an end to this tragedy."
The attack came a little over 12 hours after a mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas shopping center killed 20 people and left 26 injured.
President Donald Trump praised law enforcement involved in both incidents on Twitter Sunday.
"The FBI, local and state law enforcement are working together in El Paso and in Dayton, Ohio," Trump tweeted. "Information is rapidly being accumulated in Dayton. Much has already be learned in El Paso. Law enforcement was very rapid in both instances."
God bless the people of El Paso Texas. God bless the people of Dayton, Ohio.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 4, 2019
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said he feels "sadness for the victims and their families" but is angry that politicians "refuse to pass sensible gun-safety laws to protect our communities."
"We are still learning about the attack in Dayton and we don’t know exactly what, if anything, could have prevented this specific tragedy," Brown said. "But we know thoughts and prayers are not enough, we have a responsibility to act."
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley also praised first responders in a Facebook post early Sunday.
"Today is a reminder that there is evil in the world, but there is good too, and it starts with the Dayton police, who stopped shooter in 1 minute," Cranley wrote.
The first on-the-scene reports came from social media shortly after the shooting. In one video, backlit by flashing blue and red lights, Facebook user James Williams said he had been sitting at the outdoor patio of a Fifth Street bar when the gunman arrived.
Tweets from the Dayton Police Department's official account urged locals to stay indoors and contact them with any information concerning the incident or the shooter.
This story was originally published on WCPO .