At least one young gunman was still on the run yesterday after the gang shootout at the National Zoo in Washington that left an 11-year-old boy dead and six children aged 11 to 16 wounded. The city's police chief, Charles Ramsay, widely praised for his handling of the recent demonstrations in the city, said officers knew who they were looking for.
The shooting broke out near the end of the zoo's Easter Monday picnic, organised every year as a celebration for African-American families. Witnesses said sporadic disputes between two groups of teenage boys had continued for much of the afternoon. Bottles were thrown, one hitting a small girl, then a boy was seen to draw a gun and open fire.
Washington has some of the country's strictest gun laws. It is forbidden to buy, sell, or keep a gun in the District of Columbia. But gun crime, with the drug trade, is endemic in the eastern part of the city.
This latest serious crime spilling over into the mainly white north-west of the city from the mainly black eastern districts shocked local people, who have watched the city's fortunes rise in the past year, with property values up and the net outflow of residents now reversed. As callers to radio talkshows and internet chat rooms showed, it also opened up the strong vein of racism in what is almost a segregated city.
In New York, Vice-president Al Gore renewed his call for child safety locks on guns. But people on both sides of the gun debate said neither tougher laws nor trigger locks would have prevented this tragedy.Reuse content