Seven killed, 20 hurt in Puerto Rico bar shooting

Morgue workers remove a body from a neighborhood bar in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, just west of San Juan on Sunday.

Associated Press

Morgue workers remove a body from a neighborhood bar in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, just west of San Juan on Sunday.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Gunmen opened fire on a crowd celebrating the reopening of a renovated neighborhood bar and grocery, killing at least seven and injuring 20, police said Sunday.

Dozens of people had crammed into the tiny La Tombola bar in Toa Baja, a municipality just west of San Juan, and were waiting for the band to resume playing when the assailants attacked, police Col. Jose Morales said. Among those seriously wounded were a 9-year-old girl and a pregnant woman who lost her 8-month-old fetus, he said.

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

Vazquez said the scope of the killing makes investigators believe the attack may have involved a feud between drug traffickers.

At least two armed men began shooting as they entered, and several people inside returned fire, leaving the bar pocked with five different types of bullets, including those from an AK-47 assault rifle, Morales said. The shooting spilled outside before the gunmen fled in a car.

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

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

Police guarded those who were hospitalized as a preventive measure, although authorities do not believe any suspects are among them, Vazquez said.

Gov. Luis Fortuno visited the shooting victims, and he later called the attack a "senseless act."

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

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

Seven killed, 20 hurt in Puerto Rico bar shooting 10/19/09 [Last modified: Monday, October 19, 2009 12:05am]

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