WILKINSBURG, Pa. (AP) — Police searched Thursday for at least two gunmen who opened fire during a backyard party in suburban Pittsburgh, killing five people and wounding three others as they rushed toward the house to find cover.
The gunmen attacked the partygoers just before 11 p.m., firing from two different locations in what police described as an ambush-style attack.
“It looks like right now they were all fleeing toward the backdoor of the residence when the second gunman fired from the side of the yard,” said Lt. Andrew Schurman of the Allegheny County homicide unit. “They all seemed to get caught on the back porch.”
Four women and one man were killed. Two men were hospitalized in critical condition, and one woman in stable condition, police said.
Four of the victims were found dead on the porch.
Carl Morris and his son, Robert, were getting ready to leave their house across the street when they heard a volley of three shots, a pause, then gunfire lasting more than a minute.
Robert Morris said he saw children run onto the small back porch and scream, “Mommy, Mommy.”
“It was terrible,” the younger Morris said.
The Morrises said a woman in her 20s or 30s lived in the home with at least one daughter. They said the house was considered a “safe haven” in the neighborhood.
The backyard is about 30 feet by 50 feet. Police said they found one pile of shell casings just outside the yard in an alley. They found more shells along a fence that separates the house from a neighbor’s yard, which means a second gunman was less than 10 feet away from the porch where victims ran for cover.
Bullet holes were visible Thursday around the porch addition. Tables and chairs, some tipped over, remained in the backyard, signs of a party quickly abandoned.
The suspects fled on foot.
Wilkinsburg is a poorer, largely blighted suburb just east of Pittsburgh that is known for drug trafficking and gun violence. But neighbors described the street on which the shooting occurred as generally quiet.
After the shooting, groups of residents gathered on the street, some of them sobbing and saying they lost family members.
Mike Jones, 57, has lived in a duplex on a small hill overlooking the alley and backyard where the shooting occurred.
Although Wilkinsburg has a reputation for violence, Jones said it has been rare in his neighborhood, which is about a block off a major street about a half-mile from Interstate 376, the major commuter artery through Pittsburgh’s eastern suburbs.
“This is unheard of,” Jones said, shaking his head as homicide detectives milled about in the yard and alley. “It doesn’t happen around here.”
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald urged witnesses to step forward, saying that “can be our first step to stopping the violence in our communities.”
“As a community, we must say enough is enough,” he said.