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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Police stand near a crime scene on Chestnut Street on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Three children who were injured in a downtown Chattanooga shooting Sunday morning were leaving a birthday party, according to officials, and police are asking downtown businesses for help in identifying the culprit or culprits.

The victims — a 9-year-old girl, 4-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl — were in a vehicle with a man when someone started shooting into the vehicle, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said in a Facebook Live discussion on Monday.

The man was uninjured, but the three children were taken to a local hospital for treatment. They are expected to be OK, according to police.

"It is just absolutely outrageous to me that this could happen anywhere, much less in our city. I do not understand the mentality of someone firing into a car with three young kids," Berke said. "It's just awful and upsetting — makes me angry. No one should accept this. I don't accept it. We can't let this be something that our city just writes off as, 'Well, this is just another incident.'"

Police have not released many details about the incident, as it's an ongoing investigation, and detectives need to know when someone is telling them firsthand information rather than something that could have been learned on the news.

But what police have said is that the shooting was a targeted incident and there is no imminent danger to the public. It's not clear who was targeted, but "once the shooting began, everyone in the vehicle essentially became a target," police spokesperson Sgt. Jeremy Eames said.

It's also not clear if the shooting is connected to any other incidents, but Eames said, "there are always concerns for further violence anytime there is a shooting incident."

"[Chattanooga police] officers and investigators are working and will continue working tirelessly to try to keep everyone safe, not just anyone who may have been connected to the most recent incident," he said.

In the meantime, police are asking people with any business in the downtown area — not just those near the scene of the shooting — to check if they have security footage from 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 11.

If they do, they are asked to call 423-643-5100.

Investigators are asking for footage because "there may be information out there that exists that we don't know about," Eames said. "We want to see if the footage may be able to lead to different pieces of the puzzle that investigators may not be aware of."

One reason for the request for help is that there have been an abnormally low number of tips in this case, police said.

"Despite the fact that the incident occurred in an otherwise busy part of downtown, there was less pedestrian traffic than normal" that morning, Eames said. And several nearby restaurants had not yet opened, as they open for lunch on Sundays.

"Typically incidents such as this occur in heavy residential areas which will naturally offer the possibility for potential witnesses," he said. "That aspect is lacking in this incident. Those are a few reasons for why we may not have had as many people come forward.

"But we again reiterate that if anyone did see something, even if they aren't sure if it's significant, we encourage them to call the homicide tip line at 423-643-5100 or use the [police department's] mobile app. As always, they may remain anonymous."

Contact Rosana Hughes at 423-757-6327, rhughes@timesfreepress.com or follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.

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