A BLOODY MAY in Savannah escalated in dramatic fashion with a mass gunfight in Ellis Square this past weekend in the heart of the tourist district, prompting a rare Sunday press conference from City leaders.

In May so far, there have been nine separate shooting incidents – four of them on May 18 alone - resulting in three deaths and 17 gunshot injuries.

The Ellis Square shooting just before midnight Saturday night – eerily reminiscent of similar incidents there in the late weekend hours – resulted in 11 injuries, 6 of them gunshot wounds, with no deaths so far recorded.

Savannah Police Chief Lenny Gunther told media on Sunday that the Ellis Square incident started with a dispute “between two females in an establishment.”

Soon, Chief Gunther said, “The dispute became bigger… and unfortunately many individuals had guns in the area.”

Incredibly, once “the first shot rang out,” Gunther related, “multiple individuals began discharging their weapons at each other.”

While so far “no specific individual has been named as a suspect,” Gunther said, “we do have surveillance video we’re reviewing.”

Also happening this past weekend:

  • One dead and another injured at 56th and Crane Streets, about two hours prior to the Ellis Square incident
  • A fatal shooting in self-defense during a home invasion on the 100 block of West 49th Street, at about 7:30 Saturday night
  • A shooting in the 8000 block of Waters Avenue about midnight Friday night, resulting in one arrest
  • A shooting in the 2100 block of Montgomery Street early Friday morning, resulting in one arrest

Both Gunther and Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said all these incidents don’t seem to be related.

“There’s no connection,” Gunther said. “In each incident, each individual chose to make a poor decision to resolve conflict.”

Johnson specifically said that the Ellis Square incident, with six gunshot victims, qualifies as a mass shooting.

However, this past weekend wasn’t the only violent period this month. Prior to that were several other incidents:

  • One gunshot injury May 16 in the 1100 block of East 59th St.
  • One gunshot injury May 14 in the 400 block of East 39th St.
  • One fatality from a shooting May 8 in the 2100 block of Alabama Avenue
  • One gunshot injury May 7 in the 500 block of West 40th St.

Late night shootings in the Ellis Square/City Market area have become a regular feature of Savannah life since the square was completely renovated in 2005 with the removal of the old surface parking garage:

  • This past February, one man was killed in a shooting near City Market.
  • This past January, a woman was shot on Congress Street near City Market.
  • In October 2023, one man was killed and another injured in two incidents at City Market.
  • In November 2022, two were shot near City Market.
  • In June 2022, 5 were shot near City Market in two separate incidents
  • In July 2021, one man was killed near City Market
  • In July 2017, a bystander was killed and another five injured by a car after a shooting near City Market; the driver had just shot two people near City Market
  • In December 2015, four people were shot near Ellis Square
  • In August 2015, five people were shot near Ellis Square

And those are just the most high-profile incidents.

In early 2023, we reported that extensive measures were being taken to cut down on the amount of crowding in City Market in the late weekend hours.

In July 2022, after yet another July 4 weekend spate of gun violence in the City Market area, Mayor Johnson began discussing the notion of a general curfew.

Johnson has repeatedly taken the state legislature of Georgia to task for expanding gun rights laws. Last year, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law making it legal for eligible adults to carry a concealed or open carried firearm without a permit. That was on top of a dramatic series of widened gun rights enacted in the previous administration of Nathan Deal in 2014.