A mass shooting at a backyard party has claimed two lives and left 14 people hospitalized in Rochester, New York.
Police responded to the shooting on the 200 block of Pennsylvania Avenue at around 12.25am, with about 100 people running wildly around a ‘very chaotic scene,’ said Acting Police Chief Mark Simmons.
Investigators are still trying to piece together who opened fire and why. Simmons said it was too early to say whether more than one person was shooting or who the intended targets may have been.
It comes just five days after Simmons took over as top cop, after his predecessor was ousted following weeks of Black Lives Matter protests and unrest over the death of Daniel Prude, who was fatally injured while being arrested in March.
Rochester Acting Police Chief Mark Simmons briefs the press on a shooting that killed two and wounded 14 at a house party early Saturday. He was appointed just five days ago
‘We have 16 confirmed victims of shooting. And I’m sad to announce that two of those 16 received a fatal wound,’ Simmons said at a news conference.
A man and woman, estimated to be in their late teens or early 20s, were killed, Simmons said. None of the wounded people were believed to have life-threatening injuries. They were being treated at two area hospitals.
‘This is truly a tragedy of epic proportions,’ Simmons said in a news conference held near the home. ‘I mean 16 victims is unheard of, and for our community, who´s right now going through so much, to have to be dealt with this tragedy, needlessly, for people who decide to act in a violent manner is unfortunate and shameful, and we’re going to do everything that we can as a department to bring those people involved to justice.’
Simmons said it was unclear if the shooting was a targeted or random act of violence. The wounded were being treated in hospital and their injuries were not thought to be life threatening.
Police said that several dozen shots were fired in the shooting. One witness told WHAM-TV that the gunfire sounded like ‘an all-out warzone.’
‘So many people going in so many directions, so many different ways, driving on the grass, trying to get out of here,’ said Billy, who did not want to give his last name.
Police responded to the shooting at around 12.25am, with about 100 people running wildly around a ‘very chaotic scene,’ said Acting Police Chief Mark Simmons
The shooting comes as the city’s police department has been rocked by days of protests over Prude’s death, caused when officers put a hood over his head to stop him from spitting, then pushed his face into the pavement until they noticed he had stopped breathing.
On Monday the city’s mayor fired Police Chief La´Ron Singletary, who she said initially misled her about the circumstances of the death. Other senior police officials announced they would retire or leave top command positions.
Simmons expressed frustration early Saturday that someone had held a large, late-night party amid that tumult, apparently in defiance of a state ban on large gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic.
‘This is yet another tragedy where individuals are having these illegal, unsanctioned house parties taking place in these properties, which – number one – is not safe because of COVID, because of the conditions. And then you add in alcohol and violence and it just becomes a recipe for disaster,’ Simmons said.
Investigators are still trying to piece together who opened fire and why. Simmons said it was too early to say whether more than one person was shooting
Officers responded to calls of shots fired and found ‘approximately 100 people’ running from the scene, Simmons said. Before the call, police were not aware of the party and had received no complaints about noise, he said.
The acting chief said no suspects were in custody, but there was no reason to believe the neighborhood was unsafe.
The names of the two people killed were not immediately released.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren issued a statement asking for ‘prayers and support for all involved,’ according to WHEC-TV.
‘I’m begging everyone to remain calm and exercise deep restraint as RPD investigates what happened here and seeks those responsible,’ she said.