The wave of mass shootings over the Fourth of July highlights the challenges police face

Jul 5, 2023, 6:00 PM | Updated: 6:55 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Thirty shot, two fatally, at a Nine others injured when bullets are sprayed from a car in the nation’s capital.

A rash of shootings as the U.S. celebrated the Fourth of July is spiking fears in communities across the country and highlighting the challenges police face in preventing such violence as temperatures warm and festivities move outside. Policing such events is a delicate balance for law enforcement, who must weigh the right of revelers to gather with the threat of violence that looms in public and private spaces in a nation awash with guns.

“In many ways, their hands are tied because these types of events are often on private property and people may not do anything to violate the law until someone brandishes a firearm and starts shooting,” said Tom Nolan, who was a Boston police officer for nearly three decades. “So can the police do anything to prevent that? I just think it’s an extraordinary challenge for them to be all places at all times and anticipate things that none of us are expecting.”

Violence often surges in the summer months, when teens are out of school and there are more social events that can quickly turn deadly when tempers flare. Curfews for young people and increased police presence on the streets are among the strategies cities have historically used to try to combat summer violence.

Police can prepare for parades and other large annual events by monitoring social media chatter ahead of time, requiring a law enforcement presence for permitted events and changing up their coverage plans depending on how many people are expected when. Ideally, police work with communities who want the protection.

But it’s impossible for law enforcement to monitor every block party or holiday gathering. Vacations can also lead to police departments being thinly staffed over holiday weekends and summer months, which means calls for loud music and other disturbances can get backed up while police deal with more pressing matters, Nolan said.

“During the time when their services are most in demand, they are stretched far more thinly than they would like to publicly admit,” said Nolan, who was a shift commander in the patrol division.

The gun violence that flared this week in Washington, D.C, Louisiana, Florida, Philadelphia, Texas, Baltimore and Boston left more than a dozen dead and more than 60 wounded — including children as young as 2 years old.

The wave of killings came as the Chicago suburb of Highland Park was marking the anniversary of last year’s mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade that left seven people dead. Security was tight at events aimed at honoring those killed, and the day was capped by a drone show instead of fireworks to avoid the noise that could sound like gunfire.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre condemned the gun violence Wednesday, urging Congress to pass a ban on so-called assault weapons and placing blame on the proliferation of guns in the U.S.

“Lives are at stake here, folks. Lives are at stake in communities, the lives of our kids,” she said.

In Baltimore, police knew about the block party at the Brooklyn Homes last year and sent squads to the area to monitor for any potential violence, police said. There wasn’t any.

This year, police officials didn’t discover Sunday’s event was happening until the day of. It wasn’t advertised on social media and no one in the community told officers, so law enforcement officials weren’t properly prepared when violence broke out, interim Baltimore Police Commissioner Richard Worley told reporters. He said police are looking at whether they could have done anything better to make sure something like that doesn’t happen again.

“These are events that are about celebration, about coming together, that are intergenerational and should be sacred to our communities. When a few decide to go and literally create a mass shooting, it’s completely unacceptable,” said Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby, urging members of the public to work with police to find those responsible.

The 28 injured in Baltimore ranged in age from 13 to 32, with more than half of them younger than 18, officials said. Folding tables and plastic cups were scattered on the street, apparently left behind when people ran from the gunshots.

And police can do everything right but still won’t be able to find every gunman who wants to do harm.

The annual celebration in Shreveport, Louisiana, where a gunman opened fire late Tuesday had gone on for a decade with no trouble. Shreveport police said that officers who arrived on the scene had a hard time reaching victims because of the volume of parked cars.

“Now we are the victim of a mass shooting in our community simply because individuals decided to come in and disrupt a good time that individuals were having,” Tabatha Taylor, a Shreveport City Council member said. “A family event that has gone on for years in our community has been disrupted by gunfire because somebody decided to pull their guns and do this. Why? Why?”

The Tuesday shooting along the causeway that crosses Tampa Bay, which killed a 7-year-old, stemmed from an argument over Jet Skis that one group said were coming too close to children playing in the water. The night before, three people were killed and eight others were injured when several men fired indiscriminately into a crowd of hundreds that had gathered in a Texas neighborhood after a festival in the area. Five people were shot early Wednesday in Boston, where debris from fireworks and empty boxes were seen scattered on the street as law enforcement worked to collect evidence.

In New York City, the annual J’ouvert and West Indian Day Parade celebrations had been marred by violence for years. Police had to rethink how they approached the event and how they worked with the Brooklyn community ahead of time.

“We all know it; we know the ritual. Pick up the paper the day after and you look at the number of homicides, how many shootings took place? What happened at the parade?” Mayor Eric Adams said last year as he took a victory lap following a peaceful Labor Day weekend. “It didn’t happen this weekend. It did not happen. Why? Because four days out, we brought together our commissioners and we said we are going to be a team.”


Richer reported from Boston. Associated Press reporter Jeff Martin in Atlanta contributed.

United States News

Stuart Dryden reaches for an item at a grocery store on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, in Arlington, Va....

Associated Press

Consumers are pushing back against price increases at stores — and winning

Consumers are fighting back against food price increases by turning their backs on high-end brands and purchasing store-label products instead.

4 hours ago

Rock Creek Forest Elementary School students exit a diesel bus before attending school, Friday, Feb...

Associated Press

Electric school buses finally make headway, but hurdles still stand

The first electric school buses in the United States began running a decade ago in three school districts in California, providing a ride that was much less noisy, smelly and dirty than the diesel buses kids and parents were used to. Yet despite the availability of the technology all these years, fewer than one percent […]

6 hours ago

A calendar shows the month of February, including leap day, Feb. 29, on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, in S...

Associated Press

Have a look at the whos, whats and whens of leap year through time

NEW YORK (AP) — Leap year. It’s a delight for the calendar and math nerds among us. So how did it all begin and why? Have a look at some of the numbers, history and lore behind the (not quite) every four year phenom that adds a 29th day to February. BY THE NUMBERS The […]

15 hours ago

FILE - Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim greets supporters outside Central High School on the day of the r...

Associated Press

Fatigue and frustration as final do-over mayoral election looms in Connecticut’s largest city

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) — It’s been nearly four months since a judge tossed out the results of a Democratic mayoral primary in Connecticut’s largest city due to allegations of ballot stuffing, sending voters repeatedly back to the polls and thrusting Bridgeport into an unflattering national spotlight. Many frustrated local voters say they just want it […]

15 hours ago

Homes are seen on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in the southwest Portland, Ore., suburb of Beaverton. Th...

Associated Press

A housing shortage is testing Oregon’s pioneering land use law. Lawmakers are poised to tweak it

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A severe lack of affordable housing has prompted Oregon lawmakers to consider chipping away at a 1970s law that made the state a national leader in leveraging land use policy to prevent suburban sprawl and conserve nature and agriculture. The so-called urban growth boundary, a sacred cow of Oregon’s liberal politics, […]

15 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump hugs and kisses the American flag a...

Associated Press

Trump calls himself a ‘proud political dissident’ in CPAC speech

In a CPAC speech, Trump painted an apocalyptic vision of the future if President Joe Biden wins again as the two prepare for a rematch.

19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.


Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 


Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

The wave of mass shootings over the Fourth of July highlights the challenges police face