During a news conference on Wednesday, Police Chief C.J. Davis said it happened after two groups made up of unknown people were shooting at each other in the 3000 block of E. Weaver Street around 2:30 a.m.
Some of the bullets apparently entered the apartment building and hit a 12-year-old boy and an adult.
"I am sorry to have to be here today for this terrible occasion. This is never the kind of thing that any of us wants to be here for," Mayor Steve Schewel said. "But it's important to address our community, to express our sorrow for the families, and also our outrage that this could happen on the streets of Durham, and we've got to change that."
The 12-year-old was taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. The adult arrived at the hospital on their own for treatment of injuries.
"I heard multiple gunshots all at one time. Six or seven gunshots. Came out of nowhere. I was in the bed sleep. It was around 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning," said neighbor Randy Purcell.
WATCH: Neighbors respond to shooting on Weaver St that injured 12-year-old
Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis said it is unclear at this time if the 12-year-old lived at the apartment where he was shot.
Davis would not confirm if the shooting was believed to be gang-related, but she did say that the details of what happened did match typical characteristics of gang violence.
Council member Mark-Anthony Middleton is calling for a special city council meeting to address the root cause of crime, and discuss technology and economic initiatives that could help.
"After waking up and people literally screaming on my phone... and outrage and anger in what's going on in our city. This is a discussion we just have to have," he said. "I know for Black and Brown people, between COVID and gunfire, it's like we're in this tennis ball court volley of fear of getting sick and our children and elders being shot."
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Durham police officers are also investigating a late-night shooting in the 200 block of S. Benjamine Street.
A 4-year-old, 8-year-old and adult were found shot around 10:30 p.m. An additional five adults arrived at the hospital on their own.
Both shooting investigations are ongoing.
Anyone with information is asked to call CrimeStoppers at (919) 683-1200. CrimeStoppers pays cash rewards for information leading to arrests in felony cases and callers never have to identify themselves.