The police chief of one of Alabama's largest cities is decrying the "senseless violence" there after two women died following a shooting outside a hospital’s emergency room that unfolded while gunshot victims were arriving to seek medical care.
Markiezia Atkins, 24, and Chaveda Willis, 33, have been identified by the Jefferson County coroner as the two victims who passed away at the UAB Hospital in Birmingham, according to WVTM.
The shooting happened early Monday. Police responded, closed off the area outside the ER, and placed the hospital on lockdown. The initial shooting is believed to have taken place following an altercation around 2 a.m. at Aria Restaurant and Lounge on in the 900 block of Fifth Avenue North, reports say.
"As a result, we have two women whose lives were cut entirely too short. Two families were destroyed, and three other victims will have to live with the scars of this senseless violence for the rest of their lives," Birmingham Police Chief Scott Thurmond said, according to WVTM. "The vast majority of our citizens want a safer, better Birmingham, yet we continue to have a small group who can only resolve conflict by gunfire.
"Our city and its leadership will continue to work hard every day to hold those accountable for senseless acts of violence such as this morning’s incident. It is imperative for everyone to work together to prevent and eliminate future acts of violence," he reportedly added. "Put the guns down, they don’t solve problems, they only create bigger problems, and destroy families and our city. Birmingham and our residents deserve better."
An unoccupied University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) police vehicle also was struck in the second shooting at the hospital, WTVM reports.
A Chevrolet Tahoe had pulled up to the emergency room entrance seeking help for multiple gunshot victims who were wounded in the first shooting, witnesses told AL.com.
At that time, another vehicle arrived and those inside it opened fire at the Tahoe before fleeing the area, the website adds.
"We believe this incident was a targeted attack, however we do believe many of the victims were innocent bystanders,’' Birmingham Police Officer Truman Fitzgerald told AL.com when speaking about the first shooting.
As of midday Tuesday, no arrests have been made and police reportedly are looking for at least two suspects.
Fox News’ Stephen Sorace contributed to this report.