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2 dead, 14 wounded in Rochester mass shooting

Rochester police responded early Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, to reports of a shooting near the intersection of Goodman Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, not far from the Public Market. [WILL CLEVELAND/ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE/TNS]

Two young adults, a man and a woman were killed and 14 people wounded early Saturday in the largest Rochester shooting in memory, an act of violence that occurred at a backyard house party with more than 100 people present.

The shooting occurred on the 200 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, at a residence located in the city’s Marketview Heights neighborhood.

The identities of the deceased victims have not been released pending notification of next of kin. Acting Police Chief Mark Simmons said both victims were in their late teens or early 20s.

“This is truly a tragedy of epic proportions, if you ask me,” Simmons said at a 3:45 a.m. briefing at the scene. “I mean 16 victims is unheard of, and for our community, who’s right now going through so much, to have to be dealt 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.”

None of the wounds suffered by the 14 other shooting victims are believed to be life threatening, the police chief said. Their ages ranged from 17 to 23, an RPD statement released late Saturday morning stated.

The wounded were taken to Strong Memorial and Rochester General hospitals.

Two others suffered injuries while fleeing the gunfire, the Rochester Police Department Major Crimes Unit tweeted just before 5 a.m.

The RPD release said no suspects were in custody and said there would be no comment on a motive or the weapons used at the shooting.

Jasmin Lopez and John Santiago , who live in the 300 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, awoke after midnight to gunshots. They found two teens hiding in their driveway. “You could see the fear in his eyes,” Santiago said. “He was scared.” They got in a car and drove off.

They said the scene was chaotic. “There were kids throwing up, hiding between bushes, bleeding,” Lopez said. She said her first two calls to 911 went unanswered.

When police arrived, they saw scores of people running from the scene and found multiple people who had been shot. Simmons described it as “a very chaotic scene.”

Authorities did not know the house party was occurring until they responded to the 911 call about the shootings, Simmons said.

“This is yet another tragedy where individuals are having these illegal and unsanctioned house parties taking place in these properties,” the chief said. He said these are unsafe because of the COVID-19 outbreak, and when “you add in alcohol and violence … it just becomes a recipe for disaster.”

Assisting RPD at the scene were the New York State Police, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and Irondequoit Police Department.

Anybody with information regarding the mass shooting, or has video/photographs from the party is asked to email them to [email protected] and call 911.

No further details are expected to be released until later Saturday afternoon, RPD said.

Saturday’s mass shooting occurred in a month when tensions between Rochester police and the city’s Black community have been high because of the release Sept. 2 of police bodycam video showing the suffocation of Chicago resident Daniel Prude while being restrained by city police during a mental-health call last March.

Rochester has been the scene of daily Black Lives Matter protests since Sept. 2. Just five days ago, Simmons took over as acting police chief after Mayor Lovely Warren fired Chief La’Ron Singletary over his handling of the Prude case, which was not made public for five months. Numerous other top police officials are leaving their posts because of the Prude case fallout.

Asked about a week that included taking the reins of the police department, guiding the police department’s handling of Prude protests and now investigating a mass shooting, Simmons turned his answer toward the night’s tragic losses.

“This is not a moment for self-reflection,” he said. “This is a moment that I’m asking the community to pray for the victims and their families. A lot of people are hurting right now. A lot of people are seeking answers. And the police department are going to do what we can to help bring some comfort and solve this crime for the families.”

Before dawn, Warren issued a statement:

“I’ve been briefed by Acting Police Chief Simmons on the shooting event which occurred on Pennsylvania Avenue in the City of Rochester. Our Pathways to Peace Team is on the ground and working with the victims and their families. I’m asking the community for prayers and support for all involved.

“This tragic act of violence has impacted many people’s lives and families. I’m begging everyone to remain calm and exercise deep restraint as RPD investigates what happened here and seeks those responsible. As soon as additional information is available, the police department will provide updates on this matter. Please keep our city in your continual prayers.”

Police clergy response team arrives at shooting scene

Significant numbers of Rochester police officers responded to the scene along Pennsylvania Avenue following the shootings reported at about 12:25 a.m.

Both Rochester Police Department mobile command units were present near the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and North Goodman Street early Saturday.

About 2:15 a.m., members of the police clergy response team arrived and were escorted into the area where the apparent shootings occurred.

For the size of the police response and the large area where the investigation is occurring, the scene was marked by an eerie quiet. A bit after 2:30 a.m., relatives or friends of the people involved in the shooting arrived, their anguished cries breaking the night silence.

Shootings on the rise during coronavirus outbreak

In 2020, shootings and homicides have risen in many U.S. communities, including Rochester. Authorities have pointed to the coronavirus outbreak as a significant factor.

The extent of Saturday morning’s violence is considered a mass shooting, defined as an incident in which four or more people are shot, fatally or otherwise.

The Pennsylvania Avenue house party incident dwarfs any mass shooting seen in 2015, when Rochester led upstate New York in such incidents. That year, six people died and 18 people were wounded in a total of four mass shootings.

Among the mass shootings that year was the Boys & Girls Clubs shooting, in which three people were killed and four wounded on Aug. 19, 2015.

Rochester police that year blamed the availability of guns, which can quickly escalate disputes, and gang activity as playing a role in the increase in mass shootings.

According to the website, there had been 454 mass shootings across America in 2020 as of Friday.


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