Two people were shot dead and a third injured on Tuesday night in the US city of Kenosha as anti-police protesters clashed with armed vigilante groups during a third night of demonstrations over the police shooting of a black man.
Video footage posted online showed a man in civilian clothes with an assault rifle seeming to shoot at protesters and apparently hitting two who tried to stop him.
The apparent shooter then walked down the street freely, gun slung across his chest, while protesters scattered and police vehicles drove past him.
Early Wednesday the Wisconsin city's police department said local officers, along with assisting agencies, had responded to reports of shots being fired and multiple gunshot victims shortly before midnight.
"The shooting resulted in two fatalities and a third gunshot victim was transported to a hospital with serious, but non-life threatening injuries," the department said in a tweet, adding the investigation was "active and ongoing."
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he believed at least one person would soon be taken into custody based on video footage reviewed by police.
"I feel very confident we'll have him in a very short time," Beth said.
The violence came on the third night of angry protests over the shooting by police last Sunday of African American Jacob Blake, 29.
Bystander video shows a police man shooting Blake point-blank as many as seven times in his back as he tried to enter his car, which held his three sons.
Blake's father Jacob Blake Sr. accused police of "senseless attempted murder" as he remained paralyzed from the waist down after several surgeries.
- Third night of protests -
The most recent police shooting of an African American has sparked renewed outrage and protests in US cities, including New York and Minneapolis, and further fuelled the Black Lives Matter movement.
Protests began peacefully Tuesday evening in Kenosha, as they had the previous two nights.
But adding to tensions, heavily armed groups appeared, appearing mainly white, vowing to protect private property from destruction.
As scuffles with demonstrators erupted, law enforcement moved armored vehicles in front of the county courthouse and fired rubber bullets at protesters who shot fireworks.
- Call for peace -
Earlier Tuesday Blake's mother Julia Jackson issued a poignant appeal for peace ahead of a national protest against police brutality and racism planned for Washington on Friday.
She said the damage caused on previous nights in Kenosha "doesn't reflect my son or my family," as she called for unity and the denunciation of racism in America.
"Clearly you can see by now that I have beautiful brown skin. But take a look at your hand. And whatever shade it is, it is beautiful as well," she said.
Jackson' lawyer, civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, said it would take a "miracle" for Blake to walk again after one of the policeman's bullets shattered his spine, and others damaged his stomach, colon, liver and arm.