By Ken Kusmer
INDIANAPOLIS — A masked man armed with an assault-style rifle fired dozens of shots on a birthday party at a house in an inner-city Indianapolis neighborhood early Tuesday, killing two people and wounding six before fleeing, police said.
Around 30 people were attending the birthday barbecue when the shooting happened shortly after midnight, Indianapolis police Lt. Jeff Duhamell said. A motive was not immediately known.
A man and a woman died at the scene and six people were taken to the hospital in stable condition, including one partygoer who had been shot in the neck and another who was shot in the back, Duhamell said.
"We're talking at least 25-30 rounds from a high-powered rifle, so although eight people were shot, it could've been a lot worse," he said.
He did not have details of the firearm used in the attack except that it was an assault-style rifle, "an AK or SKS."
Marchele Hall, a supervisor with the Marion County Coroner's Office, identified one of the victims as Barbara Johnson, 37.
Indianapolis police identified the male victim as Charles Mays, 54.
Duhamell said the gunman had been wearing a ski mask, and that he fired from the street and then a car before fleeing. It wasn't clear if a getaway driver was also involved.
The shooting left shell casings scattered across 32nd Street in a neighborhood between Interstate 65 and the White River.
Quiana Harlin, 28, said she had been at the party at Johnson's house with her 4-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son but left just before the shootings. Harlin, Johnson's cousin, said there hadn't been any trouble at the party and that she heard the gunfire as she drove away.
"It was like Baghdad, it was like machine guns," Harlin said.
She said Johnson was shot in the backyard, while Mays was killed in front of the two-story white wooden-framed house. Blood stains splattered the concrete walk to the front door.
Duhamell said it was possible some shots were fired at the gunman.
"We're still checking with our forensics people and trying to find out exactly what happened," he said. "We do know that multiple rounds were being fired from the roadway toward the house."
Joe Simpson, 59, an administrator with Indiana Legal Services, said he grew up two blocks from the shooting scene. He said one of those killed was a lifelong friend who lived a few blocks away and had arrived just minutes before the shooting.
"Once upon a time it was the best kind of neighborhood you could have," Simpson said. "There's a constant theme of violence in the neighborhood. This neighborhood is a hopeless neighborhood."
Mayor Greg Ballard told reporters he was disgusted by the shooting and that it marred what had mostly been a peaceful summer in the city.
"It is a tragic shooting obviously with people just having fun," he said. "It makes me very angry when people do this and ruin the peace of our city."
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Duhamell said police officers had been investigating reports late Monday of a man carrying an assault rifle in the neighborhood, but had found no one. He said it wasn't immediately clear if there was a connection with the shooting early Tuesday.