By Verna Gates
TUSCALOOSA, Alabama (Reuters) - A gunman wielding an assault rifle opened fire early Tuesday at a bar in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, wounding at least 17 people, four of them critically, the city's police chief said.
Police Chief Steven Anderson said the shooter, who remained at large, may have been targeting someone.
"We believe it was not a random act," Anderson said during a news conference at the police station. "He walked up and was watching and observing people before he shot.
"The individuals who were there are very blessed that they were not killed," he said.
Anderson said the shooting at the bar may be connected to an earlier shooting at a residence in the nearby town of Northport. One person was injured in that incident.
The Tuscaloosa Police Department posted surveillance video of the suspected shooter on its Facebook and Twitter accounts and asked the public for help finding the man.
The grainy video shows a man with a gun walking past a row of parked cars toward the Copper Top bar in downtown Tuscaloosa. The suspect, who police said is white with a stocky build, appeared to have a tattoo on his left arm.
Anderson said the shooter left the scene on foot.
Of the 17 people transported to DCH Regional Medical Center for injuries related to the shooting, one is in very critical condition and three are in critical condition, Anderson said.
The chief said three of the wounded are students at the University of Alabama, which is located in Tuscaloosa. The bar is popular among college students and young professionals, according to police.
"We were all just shooting pool and hanging out," the Tuscaloosa News quoted Riley Dunn, a University of Alabama senior, as saying.
Dunn suffered what he described as a shrapnel-like wound to the leg.
"It was kind of loud from the music, but we heard the gun shot and no one really knew what to think. The first gunshot took place, then about 20 seconds later, then that's when he really started firing them off. After that everyone really scattered."
(Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta and Kelli Dugan; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Xavier Briand)
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