Authorities across US grapple with a rash of violence in final days of spring

Communities across the country are grappling with a rash of violence in the final days of spring that included at least four mass shootings in one weekend, and continued Monday with stabbings outside an Indiana strip mall.

On Saturday, a lone gunman opened fire at a recreational splash pad in suburban Detroit, injuring nine people, including an 8-year-old who was shot in the head. In Texas, fatal gunfire broke out at a Juneteenth celebration, with two people pronounced dead.

Other shootings and stabbings, in locations from Massachusetts to Indiana, marred the days before spring turns to summer as sweltering heat takes hold in many regions.

Chris Dennison, a sociology professor at the University of Buffalo who researches crime, said the arrival of seasonable weather presents more opportunities for crime and violence, amid heightened concerns about mental health issues and destructive outcomes.

“More people are out, more people are traveling, days are longer, weather is better: People are just far more inclined to be out and about, and with that, the potential for crime is just invariable there as well,” Dennison said Monday.

The rash of violence is a counterpoint to FBI data pointing to a sharp drop in violent crime nationwide earlier this year.

Brian Higgins, a lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said summer heat, large social gatherings and alcohol consumption typically fuel a seasonal increase in violence.

“This is to be expected,” said Higgins, a former police chief for Bergen County, New Jersey. "Is it worse than other years? That remains to be seen.”

Splash-pad shooting

In suburban Detroit, nine people were injured, including two young children and their mother, as a shooter opened fire Saturday at a splash pad where families gathered to escape summer heat. An 8-year-old among the victims was shot in the head and remained hospitalized Monday in critical condition.

Authorities said 42-year-old shooter Michael Nash fired as many as 36 times, stopping several times to reload. He subsequently went home to Shelby Township, where he killed himself. Nash had no prior criminal history but apparently struggled privately with “mental health challenges,” according to police.

Michigan law empowers a judge to take away someone’s guns if a family member steps forward about possible danger, but authorities said there's not an indication so far that concerns were raised.

A splash pad is a recreational area with a nonslip surface where people can play in fountains and water sprays.

Also Saturday, six people were shot in a residential neighborhood in Lathrup Village, another Detroit suburb.

Juneteenth party

Gunfire broke out Saturday night during a Juneteenth celebration at a public park in Texas, about 19 miles (30 kilometers) north of Austin.

Police in Round Rock on Monday identified the two women killed in the shooting as Lyndsey Vicknair, 33, and Ara Duke, 54. Neither woman was involved in an altercation at the event that escalated into the shooting that injured 14 others, police said. There were no immediate arrests as police searched for a suspect.

The shooting at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock also wounded two children, Round Rock Police Chief Allen Banks said.

Indianapolis stabbing

In Indianapolis, nine people were injured — three of them critically — in the predawn hours Monday in a stabbing outside a strip mall, police said.

Officer William Young of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said investigators believe a disturbance between two groups preceded the stabbings in a parking lot outside a restaurant and lounge. Three of the hospitalized were in critical condition. No immediate arrests were made, while police spoke to multiple witnesses and solicited surveillance camera footage.

Also Monday, police in Chicago said 11 people were injured in two shootings that unfolded about one hour apart in the city's Humbolt Park and Englewood neighborhoods.

Pop-up party

Seven people were shot and wounded while running away when gunfire erupted Sunday at a large gathering of young people in Methuen, Massachusetts.

Authorities say the gunfire began at 2 a.m. after hundreds of people gathered for a pop-up party organized on social media. Victims ranged in age from 17 to 22, with two people listed in critical condition.

Methuen Police Chief Scott McNamara said authorities monitor “hot spots” where such gatherings typically take place, but Sunday’s gathering happened in a new location and turned violent.

Also on Sunday, officers in Denver shot and killed a woman who was holding a large, hunting-style knife at a downtown intersection. Officers used a Taser on the woman twice, but she began advancing toward them as they tried to back up from her, Denver police Chief Ron Thomas said at a news conference. In South Carolina, two armed men were shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies in separate episodes.

Charis Kubrin, a professor the University of California Irvine's Department of Criminology, Law and Society, said a recent overall decline in violent crime as documented by the FBI comes with limitations because violent crime tends to intensify mid-year and some cities will run counter to national trends.

“Not every city or neighborhood or street segment experiences that decline,” she said.


Associated Press writers Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas, Rick Callahan in Indianapolis, Colleen Slevin in Denver, and Bruce Shipkowski in Toms River, New Jersey, contributed to this report.