A Martin Luther King Park barbecue attended by friends, family and young children turned into chaos Saturday night when a gunman opened fire, wounding five people two critically.
The shooting occurred about 8:30 p.m. at the park, along Best Street between North Parade and Fillmore avenues. The five victims -- four men and one woman believed to be in their 20s -- were taken to the hospital. The gunman was last seen running along Myers Avenue.
"The gunman walked up and opened fire on a party that was going on at Shelter No. 4," said Dennis J. Richards, the Buffalo Police Department's chief of detectives. "He approached the scene on foot and fled the scene on foot."
"We're interested in knowing what happened ourselves," Richards said.
The gathering was a birthday party attended by about 50 to 60 people, said one witness at the scene of the shooting.
"We were putting this together for a whole week," said the man, who asked not to be identified. "We weren't expecting any of this."
The gunman approached from Best Street, stood next to a vehicle more than 50 feet from the shelter and opened fire with a semiautomatic handgun, the witness said.
The witness heard as many as nine shots.
Some people dove to the ground while others ran from the shelter.
Three people didn't get up, the witness added.
"Thank the Lord none of the kids got hit," the man said. "There were a whole bunch of kids out here."
"I hope [police] find [the gunman] before we do," he added.
The gunman was described as a black male, about 5-foot-11, 180 pounds and wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and light-colored jeans, Richard said.
Police remained at the scene late Saturday. A portion of the park and adjacent parking lot were cordoned off with crime tape. As many as a dozen police cars converged on the scene.
A black subcompact car bore the evidence of the gunfire -- with several windows shot out.
"I thought someone was knocking on my door," said one Best Street neighbor, referring to the gunshots. "Then I heard an ambulance and came out. This is what I saw."
Anyone with information regarding the shootings is asked to call or text the confidential TIP-CALL line at 847-2255 or submit information via the "Report a Tip" function on the department's website.