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Man unloads ‘hail of gunfire’ into San Diego bistro: ‘Amazing that nobody was hurt’

Police investigate a shooting involving a high-powered rifle at a Hillcrest restaurant Tuesday night. Nobody was injured, and police detained a possible suspect in the shooting.

A man armed with a high-powered rifle unleashed a “hail of gunfire” into a Hillcrest restaurant Tuesday night, but nobody was injured, police said.

Officers detained a possible suspect about 20 minutes later and found the discarded gun somewhere in the four blocks between where the gunfire erupted and where the man was detained, San Diego Police Lt. Andra Brown told San Diego News Video.

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Investigators at the scene found at least 19 “assault rifle-caliber” shell casings, Brown said.

Several 911 callers reported the gunshots just before 7:40 p.m. near University and Fourth avenues, in a bustling area lined with restaurants and bars, San Diego Police Officer John Buttle said.

The rounds shattered the windows at the Asian Bistro, Brown said, adding that it was “amazing that nobody was hurt.”

“It’s quite a blessing when that much, that hail of gunfire that went out, there was nobody hit,” Brown told San Diego News Video. “There were several patrons inside the business, and employees, and nobody was struck.”

Some people inside the restaurant reported being hit by shattered glass, but any wounds were superficial and drew no blood, Brown said.

Witnesses told police the shooter fled south, and at least one witness said the gun used was an AR-15 rifle, according to police radio traffic.

The report of the shooting — with fears that it could develop into a large-scale active-shooter situation — prompted a huge law enforcement response, with patrol officers from around the city rushing to the scene as a police helicopter circled overhead.

Officers established a perimeter with special focus south of the shooting site, where witnesses said the shooter ran. Before the potential suspect was detained, officers found clothing matching those worn by the shooter discarded in an alley.

An unarmed man matching the shooter’s physical description was spotted about four blocks south of the shooting site and detained a few minutes before 8 p.m., in an alley between Fourth and Fifth avenues near Walnut Avenue, according to Buttle and Brown.

He remained in custody several hours later being questioned about his possible involvement, Brown said.

Some time after the suspect was detained, and on a potential path between the shooting site and where he was handcuffed at gunpoint, officers discovered what they believe to be the firearm and some magazines for the weapon, Brown said.

Anyone with information about the shooting was asked to call San Diego police at (619) 531-2000 or San Diego County Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

Alex Riggins writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune

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