CINCINNATI – A shooting rampage outside a popular nightspot near downtown Sunday left nine people wounded, prompting a desperate search for at least two shooters and fueling concern that gun violence could become a “normal part of our culture.”

Chaos erupted after an altercation between two groups of people shortly before the 2 a.m. closing time outside Mr. Pitiful’s in the city’s historic Over-the-Rhine district, Lt. Col. Mike John said. He estimated that 15-20 shots were fired.

All the eight men and a woman who were treated at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center have been released, hospital spokeswoman Heather Chura Smith said.

Mayor Aftab Pureval called the incident “unacceptable” and credited officers at the scene for a quick response that likely saved lives.

“The gun violence we are seeing is not the gun violence of the past that was concentrated around the drug trade,” Pureval said at a news conference. “We need community support, the citizens of Cincinnati to realize this is a devastating trend and to work with us to resolve differences without gunfire.”

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Officers, at the scene before the shooting because of the large crowds that had been gathering at night, witnessed two assailants shoot at each other, John said. He said one officer fired a shot at the fleeing shooter, described only as wearing a white shirt and dark pants. It was not immediately clear whether the person was hit.

“The (suspect) was actively shooting his firearm at that time,” John said. 

Officers began aiding the wounded as the crowd encroached, John said. The police department’s Civil Disturbance Response Team was brought in to disperse the gathering. Two loud “bang balls” were employed to clear the area so emergency medical teams could reach the wounded.

“Most of those injuries are lower extremity injuries,” John said. “We did have officers apply tourniquets at the scene.”

Lindsey Swadner, owner of a nearby bar called The Hub, said something must be done to get guns off the street. And she urged the city to provide mental health help to distraught bartenders and others at the scene. 

“I am on the other end of it, trying to … make sure my bartenders aren’t sobbing hysterically and freaking out and that they are safe to go home,” she said.