SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Seven people were shot as a massive Halloween street party in the city's Castro district wound down Tuesday night, police said.
The shootings occurred around 10:40 p.m., as authorities began dispersing thousands of revellers under a new curfew that was aimed at controlling the traditionally raucous event. Two people were taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries, and five others were injured by gunfire, said police spokesman Sgt. Neville Gittens. Several people were detained in the shooting and a motive was not immediately clear, he said.
The once-spontaneous and unsanctioned party was taken over by the city four years ago after police recorded five stabbings and a number of assaults in a crowd of 500,000.
Officials and members of the district's gay community said the party began attracting gay bashers along with colourful costumed characters, and many gays and lesbians stopped coming.
On Tuesday night, city officials had ramped up police presence by 25 per cent, reduced the number of entertainment stages from three to one and cut off the festivities at 11 p.m. amid concerns of more violence.
"We had the sheriff's department screening people for weapons and alcohol. Obviously you have a major event - a lot of different spots" to patrol, Gittens said. "I can't explain how this happened. Unfortunately it did happen, and we are investigating to find out who is the cause of the shooting."
Sophia Vlahiotis, who owns Ristorante Capri just yards from the scene, was outside selling pizzas when a crowd of people fleeing the bullets began running in her direction.
"They pushed the table over, the oven fell and then I realized it was gunshots," she said. "They were trying to get into the restaurant, there were so many people."
Vlahiotis, who did not see what led up to the shooting, said this year may be her last participating in the Halloween party.
"I'm still shaking," she said. "I don't know if I want to do this again. It's not worth my life."