Late-night Fourth of July celebrations in Savannah's downtown historic district erupted into chaos early Wednesday after gunfire wounded three people in a popular nightlife district, leading to a police chase in which a fleeing vehicle crashed and killed three others.
One suspect was arrested and will be charged with three counts of felony murder and other crimes related to the crash and shootings, Savannah-Chatham County police Cpl. Hillary Nielsen told reporters Wednesday. She didn't name the suspect and said Police Chief Joseph Lumpkin would give further details at a news conference later in the day.
Police had extra officers on duty Tuesday night and early Wednesday, Nielsen said, as big crowds gathered in downtown Savannah for the city's Fourth of July fireworks display. She said officers heard gunfire in the City Market bar and entertainment district at about 12:13 a.m. They called in a description of the shooting suspects' vehicle fleeing the scene.
That vehicle crashed at an intersection not far from the shooting scene "after a police pursuit," Nielsen said.
"As a result of the crash, one pedestrian was killed and five other pedestrians sustained non-life threatening injuries," Nielsen said. "Two people in the perpetrator's car were killed in the crash."
Three people were wounded in the shooting that preceded the chase, she said, and one victim was in critical but stable condition. A fourth person was injured by gunfire in a separate shooting nearby about 15 minutes later, but Nielsen could not say whether it was related to the others.
Patrick Brown told WTOC-TV he was working in City Market when the shooting started.
"Just heard about 7 to 10 shots ring out, and at that point I just laid down," Brown said. "After that, I just saw hundreds of people sprinting through City Market. Once I felt safe, I looked out the window and saw multiple people laying down, and finally police kind of ushered everybody through City Market to get everyone out."
Another bystander, Jeffery Wilson, told the TV station he saw the fleeing SUV crash into a light pole.
"As the SUV swerved to the right, left, and back to the right again, that's when they lost it and hit that pole, and then they hit several other small poles along the sidewalk," Wilson said. "And somebody got hit in the process from pushing some kids out of the way."