San Francisco police say the Thursday shooting of three people, including a teenager, in a popular park full of children and sunbathers appears to have been a "targeted incident."
Gunshots pierced the air around 3 p.m., interrupting a sunny afternoon at Dolores Park. Two men, ages 37 and 68, and a 16-year-old boy were rushed to San Francisco General Hospital following the shooting.
The younger of the two men sustained life-threatening injuries, while the other two's wounds are considered non-life threatening, police said.
As of Friday, the San Francisco Police Department is searching for as many as five suspects. They handed out fliers to people who live in the area, saying that they are looking for a four-door sedan that is either gray or red.
The gunmen are believed to be Norteno gang members and the intended targets belong to their rival gang, MS-13, sources say. However, the the 68-year-old man was an innocent bystander.
"It's crazy that it was so brazen, just in the middle of the day," said Aaron Leifer, who livces close enough to Dolores Park to hear Thursday's gunfire.
"I heard 'Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop,'" Leifer recalled. "I was like someone got shot."
Officers have since stepped up security at Dolores Park, well known for its spectacular views of the City by the Bay. On Friday, the increased presence was apparent as officers rode motorcycles and bicycles through the park.
Leifer, who said he would like to see a larger police presence in Dolores Park long-term, knows the 68-year-old retiree who was shot. His friend was likely in the wrong place at the wrong time, Leifer said.
"One of my neighbors was a victim and he has been discharged so I'm really happy to hear that," he said.
The victim's girlfriend told NBC Bay Area that he is recovering. Her partner frequently walks in the park, she said, and had put on headphones just before Thursday's shooting. He did not know the other victims.
A witness, who calls himself "The Hatter," told NBC Bay Area that about half a dozen people got into an argument with another group on the steps to a pedestrian bridge at Church and Cumberland streets around 3 p.m.
“I went to see if everyone was OK, mediate, make sure to be the one to calm everyone down," "The Hatter" recalled. Instead he heard, "They're strapped!"
He said the gunman fired at least six shots. "The Hatter" felt one of the bullets hit the ground next to him and a fragment nicked his leg.
The suspects were wearing red T-shirts and had covered their faces with what "The Hatter" believes were bandanas.
They were "pretty stereotypical gang members," he said.
Police spokesman Robert Rueca said Friday that investigators were looking into whether Thursday's shooting was gang-related, among other possible motives.
People who had been enjoying the balmy weather in Dolores Park fled when gunfire erupted.
“All of a sudden I heard six gunshots and then I see everyone running down the hill and so I just took cover and ran to the bathroom," said witness Phil Griffiths.
Other witnesses told NBC Bay Area that one of the victims, who was taken away on a gurney, was shot in the back.
The armed group sprinted out of Dolores Park after the shooting, and some of them may have sped away in a Toyota Corolla, witnesses added.
Police spent Thursday afternoon canvassing the neighborhood. Officers are still looking for information about the gunman and his accomplices and are seeking information, photographs, video or surveillance footage from witnesses and people who live nearby.
“A lot of people were in the park and we’re asking anyone who may have seen anything or heard anything to contact police, to give us that information so we can have a more thorough investigation," said San Francisco police spokeswoman Grace Gatpandan.
Anyone with information about the shooting can call the SFPD Anonymous Tip Line at 415-575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411 with SFPD at the beginning of the message.