(Reuters) – Two shootings in Washington, D.C. left two people dead and seven injured late on Thursday, reports by police and several media outlets said, as authorities on Friday hunted for a pair of suspects from one of the attacks likely armed with an assault rifle.
In the first attack, one man was killed and five people wounded, two of them critically, in a drive-by shooting. The victims had been standing in an apartment building courtyard in the Columbia Heights neighbourhood when they were shot, Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Emerman said.
Two suspects were seen in a Nissan sedan and used an “AK style rifle,” police said in statement.
“Detectives are interviewing witnesses and looking for camera footage,” Emerman said.
About half an hour after the first incident, three people were shot in the northeastern part of the city, leaving one dead, according to NBC’s Washington affiliate. There was no initial indication the two shootings were linked, NBC reported, citing police.
DC Police on Twitter confirmed the second shooting in the 1400 block of Rhode Island Avenue just south of the Brookland neighbourhood but gave no other details.
ABC affiliate WJLA-TV showed ambulances carrying victims from the scene of the first shooting.
Gun violence has been a regular feature of American life, but a spate of recent mass shootings in Texas, Ohio and other states have renewed debate over the nation’s gun laws and spurred calls for action.
Many Republicans and the powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, oppose further restrictions on gun ownership. Republican Vice President Mike Pence has decried the gun-control stance and accused the Democrats as having a “radical agenda.”
Republican President Donald Trump, in an interview with Fox News that aired on Thursday, said he was looking for compromise steps that both Democrats and Republicans could support on gun control, but has given no details on what action he may push.
House Democrats have passed several gun initiatives, including expanded background checks, but the Republican-led Senate has not taken up the legislation.
The controversy over the use of assault rifles has entered the 2020 presidential race, with candidate and former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke declaring at a Democratic debate that he would confiscate such rifles.
O’Rourke has made gun safety the centrepiece of his campaign since late August, when his hometown of El Paso, Texas, was the site of a racially motivated mass shooting that killed 22 people inside a Walmart store.
On Thursday, gunmaker Colt said it was suspending its productions of the AR15 and other rifles for the civilian market, the Associated Press reported.
(Reporting by Rich McKay, Dan Whitcomb and Susan Heavey, Editing by Angus MacSwan and Bernadette Baum)