BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Americas
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Fire Chief Bill Lee at the scene:
"We are making sure we have got to everybody"
 real 28k

The BBC's Tom Carver in Washington
"Children and by-standers were caught in the cross-fire"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 25 April, 2000, 02:37 GMT 03:37 UK
Children shot at US zoo
zoo shooting
The zoo had been hosting a family day
A shooting incident at the National Zoo in the United States capital, Washington, has left one child critically ill and five wounded.

A 12-year-old boy is reported to be on a life support system after being shot in the head.

Three other victims are said to be in a grave condition in hospital. One girl sufffered chest wounds.

Reports say the shooting broke out after a feud between two rival gangs of youths who had been visiting the zoo turned violent.

The National Zoo, which is a part of the Smithsonian Institution, is one of the most visited sites in Washington, attracting three million visitors a year.

Situated in one of Washington's wealthiest neighborhoods, it had been hosting an African-American family day.

Two boys waiting outside the National Zoo
Two young boys wait to be reunited with their families

Just as it was closing, gunfire erupted between two groups of teenage boys who had been taunting eachother during the tour.

Most of those involved are understood to have been 15 or 16-years-old.

One witness said she saw at least 40 teenagers arguing at the entrance of the zoo. She said several were brandishing guns.

Others told the Associated Press news agency that the victims appeared to have been caught in crossfire.

Chaotic scenes

There were chaotic scenes as frightened parents and children ran out of the zoo on to Connecticut Avenue, one of Washington's busiest streets.

"It is just a terrible, terrible tragedy. Our hearts go out to the families

Zoo spokesman Robert Hoage

Nakisha Johnson, 17, said she saw one young man open fire after the feud became violent.

"He was just shooting at the people he was fighting," she said.

Other witnesses said the shooting occurred when a bottle was thrown from one group of youths to another.

A piece of glass struck a young woman in the face, and then shots rang out, they said.

Police helicopters hovered over the zoo after the incident, as the authorities searched for those responsible.

The zoo planned to remain closed on Tuesday.

"It is just a terrible, terrible tragedy. Our hearts go out to the families," said zoo spokesman Robert Hoage.

The latest shootings came less than a week after the first anniversary of the Columbine massacre, in which two teenage boys opened fire at their school in Colorado, killing 13.

Vice President Al Gore announced news of the shootings at a Democratic fund-raising event in New York City attended by President and Mrs Clinton.

"We really have to have mandatory child safety trigger locks, and photo licence IDs for the purchase of new handguns," Mr Gore told the audience.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
America and the gun
Click below for the key background stories and analysis

Key stories:
Guns and politics
Americas Contents

Country profiles
See also:

25 Apr 00 | Americas
Shootings mar 100-year tradition
15 Apr 00 | Americas
Two die in US teen shooting
17 Mar 00 | Americas
Gun safety deal agreed
11 Mar 00 | Americas
Teenager charged after US shooting
01 Mar 00 | Americas
Controlling America's gun culture
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to other Americas stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories