One person was killed and eight were wounded in a shooting during a private party at a Pennsylvania community center early Sunday, authorities said.
Indiana County State Police said police, local deputies and emergency responders responded at 12:35 a.m. Sunday to the shooting at the Chevy Chase Community Center in White Township, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northeast of Pittsburgh. .
Nine people between the ages of 18 and 23 were shot, including a 22-year-old Pittsburgh man who died at the scene, police said. Lt. Col. George Bivens said investigators believe more than one shooter was involved, but he declined to say how many there were.
“Dozens of shots were fired within the confines of the building,” Bivens said, later acknowledging that “we may well have had a shooting inside this building.” Many bullet casings and “multiple firearms” were recovered, along with other evidence such as clothing and cellphones, he said.
Bivens said, however, that officials believe the events were “isolated to those attending that party” and did not believe the threat was directed at the broader community.
Bivens said police were originally called around midnight about excessive noise coming from the building, and patrol officers were assured the noise would be reduced. A state police mounted unit was dispatched to monitor the situation and control the crowd if necessary.
Upon arrival, members of the mounted unit heard gunshots inside, called for backup, and then heard more gunshots and saw people fleeing through doors and windows. Some began helping the wounded who were “collapsing outside the building” and others went inside and found more victims, Bivens said. No state troopers or horses were injured, he said.
Bivens said more than 150 people were believed to be present at the time of the shooting and that the building was not particularly large and would have been “very full” at the time. When the shooting began, those inside “came out of the building any way they could,” he said.
"You can imagine the chaos that would occur after several shots were fired in a relatively small space," he said. “People dove through the windows, people ran through the doors, people ran across the porch railings, trying to get away from that scene.”
An 18-year-old man from Chicago was seriously injured and an 18-year-old man from Florida was also among the victims. The others shot were all from Pennsylvania: three men, ages 19, 20 and 22; two 19-year-old women; and a 23-year-old woman.
The injured were taken to Indiana Regional Medical Center in Indiana, Pennsylvania; UPMC Presbyterian and UPMC Marcy in Pittsburgh; and Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown. Six remain hospitalized, one in critical condition, while two were treated and released, police said later Sunday.
Officials are tracking who rented the venue for the party, which required payment of a fee prior to entry, and who hosted the event, Bivens said.
There were no suspects in custody and police asked anyone with information to contact Indiana County Police. Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers announced a $10,000 reward for information in the case leading to arrests and prosecutions, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has offered up to $5,000 more.
The scene of the shooting is about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the campus of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which was celebrating its homecoming weekend. The school's vice president of student affairs, Thomas Segar, said two of the injured were students and that officials were working with their families to provide support. Activities on campus were proceeding as planned with an increased police presence, a university official said.
"We understand that incidents like last night's violence are frightening and can cause ongoing feelings of fear and worry," Segar said, before providing information on mental health support and counseling.
Neighbor Robert Miller said he and his wife heard loud music coming from the building as they were about to go to sleep.
“Then all of a sudden I heard about 20 gunshots,” he told the Tribune-Review. “There were people lying on the edge of the sidewalk. It's frightening".
His wife, Ellen Ober, said: "There were people everywhere crying and screaming."
Trooper Cliff Greenfield said investigators were trying to gather as much information as possible from witnesses.
"We clearly haven't been able to interview everyone who was there," he told the newspaper. «People fled the place; "It was a chaotic scene."
The Chevy Chase Community Center was built in 1971 by a group established in 1969 to fight poverty and help those in need, according to its website. The center says its mission is to “cultivate, nurture and sustain a peaceful and inclusive culture that unites the community with positivity, diversity, inclusion, education, nutrition and love.”
Indiana County District Attorney Robert Manzi Jr., who is on the center's board of directors, said the center provides "meals and a community atmosphere for people in need" and "has served as a place to help members of our community for many decades. .”
Executive Director Brandi Ports said on the center's Facebook page that officials are "praying for everyone involved" and that the center would remain closed until further notice.
“Pray for those involved, for our community and for our staff and volunteers,” he said.
Lillian Clemons, a nearby resident, told the Tribune-Review that she is a former director of the center and that her brother is among the many people who eat there. She said she believes the center should not be rented out on what she called “crazy weekends,” like homecoming.
"I'm about to cry. It’s painful because everyone is fighting to maintain this,” she said. “This was a service to the community. "That's what we need it for, for the people."