By Andy Furillo, Emma Goldberg and Thomas Fuller
The six people killed in an eruption of gunfire in downtown Sacramento over the weekend, one of the worst mass killings in the city’s history, ranged in age from 21 to 57, the county coroner’s office said Monday.
It was still unclear Monday afternoon who was behind the shooting, which took place outside nightclubs in the early hours of Sunday. The chief of police, Katherine Lester, said several gunmen were involved.
Police said Monday that they had arrested Dandrae Martin, whom they described as a “related suspect” in the shooting. Martin was arrested on charges of assault and illegal firearm possession, police said in a statement, adding that officers searched three residences in the Sacramento area in connection with the case.
The dead — three women and three men — included a supermarket cashier, a homeless woman and a landscaper. They were identified by the coroner’s office as Johntaya Alexander, 21; Melinda Davis, 57; Sergio Harris, 38; Joshua Hoye-Lucchesi, 32; Yamile Martinez-Andrade, 21; and Devazia Turner, 29.
Twelve more people were wounded.
The shooting, which occurred a short walk from the state Capitol, stunned a city that has not yet recovered from the pandemic. Sacramento, especially the downtown area, saw a number of restaurants and other shops go out of business, largely because state employees stopped commuting to offices downtown.
Most state employees in the city are still working from home. Even so, downtown Sacramento has seen business revive at night in recent months, residents and business owners said.
“Everybody’s trying to go out and enjoy themselves, everybody’s sick of being inside,” said Anthony Montes, a manager at Rodney’s Cigar and Liquor, a shop on the street where the shootings occurred. When he closed for the night at 11 p.m. Saturday, he felt a heightened energy, Montes said: “You could sense something. There were too many people out.”
Several popular longtime Sacramento establishments closed down during the pandemic, contributing to a sense of eerie quiet downtown, he said. But as mask mandates have been lifted in recent weeks, Montes said, the local nightclub scene has boomed.
Sacramento residents said they were shocked by the sheer number of rounds that were fired during the shooting. One local television station that analyzed video taken at the scene counted at least 76 gunshots in less than a minute. Police said Monday that they had recovered more than 100 shell casings from the scene.
“It woke me up, and I thought it was a war going on out there,” said Anthony Ballard, who lives on the street where the shooting occurred.
“I’ve lived here most of my life,” Ballard added. “It’s changed during the pandemic.”
Violent crime rose in Sacramento last year, especially murders. The city recorded 55 murders, a 31% increase from the year before and the highest level of murders in 15 years.
Lester said in a statement Sunday that her department was investigating whether the shooting had any link with a fight outside the nightclubs Sunday.
“We are aware of a social media video that appears to show an altercation that preceded the shooting,” Lester said. “We are currently working to determine what, if any, relation these events have to the shooting.”
One stolen firearm was recovered at the scene, Lester said, adding that a police camera captured parts of the attack.
Grieving relatives — a father, a sister, a nephew — were confounded by the sudden cutting short of their loved ones’ lives.
Johntaya Alexander’s father, John Alexander, said his daughter dreamed of being a social worker and had been working as a cashier at Smart and Final, a warehouse-style retailer. She had recently moved into her own apartment in Sacramento. Alexander received the news of her killing from her sister, Tezha, who had been out with Johntaya Alexander on Saturday night.
“She was a beautiful young lady just starting to experience life,” John Alexander said.
Johntaya Alexander, who ran track and loved to swim, was “a high-spirited child, always looking to explore, always willing to be challenged,” her father said.
Tezha Alexander said of her sister, “She was loving. She was caring. She was the life of the party.”
Tezha Alexander said she did not have any information on possible motives for the shootings.
The family of Harris said he was a landscaper with three young children.
His sister Kay Harris said she heard the news early Sunday morning from her cousin, who watched Sergio Harris take his last breath.
Kay Harris rushed downtown and saw bodies on the ground.
“I was just crying in disbelief,” she said.
Davis, another victim of the shooting, was homeless.
“She was simply waiting for the streets to clear so that she could go to sleep,” Darrell Steinberg, the mayor of Sacramento, said in a text message.
“Her murder should not be forgotten,” the mayor said. “Every person who lives without basic housing and shelter is vulnerable to the worst kinds of deprivation and danger.”
Devazia Turner, another victim of the shooting, worked as a night manager at Wingstop restaurant, where his wife worked as the morning manager, said Turner’s mother, Penelope Scott.
Scott said her son leaves behind four children between the ages of 3 and 10.
He loved to come over to barbecue for her, clean and run errands, Scott said.
“I want them to get justice for my son,” she said.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.