Eleven people were shot early yesterday at a gathering at a community center in Caroline County, Va., authorities said. A twelfth person was stabbed.

One of the victims was in critical condition, and two victims were being treated in hospitals late last night, according to Anthony A. Lippa Jr., the county sheriff.

It was unclear what prompted the gunfire, which occurred in Dawn, which is about 80 miles south of Washington. Lippa said the community center had been rented to a family for a party.

Lippa said that investigators were "following up on leads." He said one rifle and one handgun had been found by law enforcement officers who went to the scene, at routes 301 and 30.

Although information about the incident remained sketchy last night, David M. Rozell Jr., the county supervisor in whose district the shooting occurred, said he understood that authorities had identified some "strong suspects."

Rozell said the brick community center, which once housed a school, is operated by the Dawn Progressive Association. It provides space for a sheriff's substation.

Fredricka H. Dyson, who said she lives about a quarter-mile from the community center, said she was awakened early yesterday by the sound of gunshots.

"I thought it was fireworks," she said. "It was rapid -- bang, bang, bang -- like fireworks."

She said a friend of her daughter's had attended the party and fled through a bathroom window after hearing the sounds of gunfire. "She really didn't know what the sound was," Dyson said.

"She went back into the bathroom and climbed out of the bathroom to get out of the building."

Dawn, near the southern end of largely rural Caroline County, is about 20 miles north of Richmond and a few miles east of Interstate 95.