A volley of gunfire on St. Paul's East Side left two men fatally wounded on the sidewalk early Thursday morning, continuing a spate of gun violence that has plagued the capital city for months.

Officers responded to the intersection of Payne Avenue and E. North Street, just west of Swede Hollow Park, around 3:30 a.m. after several nearby residents called 911 to report the shots. Police found the men suffering from multiple bullet wounds, according to emergency dispatch audio. The suspected shooter reportedly fled on foot.

Both victims were transported by paramedics to Regions Hospital. One died shortly after arrival and the other about two hours later, said police spokesman Steve Linders. Authorities believe "at least three people were involved" in the incident.

Relatives identified one of the victims as 21-year-old Alejandro Rios of St. Paul. Although the exact circumstances of his death remain unclear, Rios' sister Veronica Muñoz believes he was hanging out a house on Payne Avenue when some sort of altercation spilled out into the intersection.

Someone inside the duplex awoke to gunfire and called 911 after locating Rios mortally wounded outside, Muñoz said. Hours later, investigators photographing the crime scene marked shell casings and other evidence left strewn in the street and sidewalk leading away from the house.

Rios, who lived with his mother only a block from the shooting, was remembered as an aspiring rapper who enjoyed writing and producing his own music. He leaves behind a 1-year-old son.

"He always wanted to get out of the East Side and take care of his family," Muñoz said. She said Rios dreamed of one day moving to Guatemala to live with his father.

But in recent years, Rios struggled with depression and lived on disability payments, she said. Court records show Rios was also approaching the final stretch of a three-year probation sentence in Hennepin County stemming from a 2018 robbery conviction.

"He was actually doing good. … He just really wanted to have his own money," Muñoz said, noting that he sometimes hung "with a bad crowd."

The dual killings mark the city's second and third homicides of the year.

A few hours earlier, in an unrelated incident Wednesday night, a 15-year-old girl was shot in the stomach near Selby Avenue and Dunlop Street. She is expected to survive.

Liz Sawyer liz.sawyer@startribune.com

Paul Walsh paul.walsh@startribune.com