IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

7 killed, 20 injured in Puerto Rico bar shooting

Gunmen opened fire into a bar and killed seven people, injuring 20 others, Puerto Rico police said Sunday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Gunmen opened fire into a bar in northern Puerto Rico and killed at least seven people, injuring 20 others, police said Sunday. A prosecutor said a battle over drug traffic might have prompted the attack.

A 9-year-old girl and a pregnant woman who lost her eight-month-old fetus after being shot were among those seriously wounded, said police Col. Jose Morales.

The justice department plans to file a murder charge for the death of the fetus, said prosecutor Wanda Vazquez, who is investigating the case.

"The way these killings were carried out suggests ... a struggle to control the traffic of controlled substances," she said.

At least two armed men began shooting late Saturday as they entered La Tombola bar, which had reopened that night under new ownership, Morales said. Several people who were at the bar returned fire and the shooting continued outside before the gunmen fled in a car, he said.

Three people were found dead inside the bar and another three outside, while a seventh died at the hospital, Vazquez said.

Trying to identify the dead
Police said they were struggling to identify those who died in the shooting in Toa Baja, a municipality just west of San Juan.

Vazquez said few people were willing to cooperate with police, complicating the investigation. "This is a very tight, close-knit community."

Gov. Luis Fortuno visited the injured at a hospital and later called the shootings a "senseless act."

"To those responsible for these actions, we are going to follow you, find you and charge you," he told a news conference.

The killings occurred just weeks after federal authorities and local police made several high-profile arrests of suspected drug dealers.

An estimated 30 percent of drugs reaching the U.S. come through the Caribbean, with Puerto Rico a popular transshipment point because drugs do not have to clear customs to reach the mainland.

Authorities say 709 people have been reported killed this year in Puerto, 65 more than during the same period last year. Puerto Rico's police chief estimates that 70 percent of the killings are tied to drug-trafficking.

Nearly 4 million people live in the U.S. Caribbean territory.