Shooting at Airbnb party in Pittsburgh leaves 2 dead, 9 injured



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correction

An earlier version of this article misstated who had called police around 9 p.m. Mitchell Wilston said it was his neighbors who had called authorities, not he and his wife. This version has been corrected.

PITTSBURGH — A shooting early Sunday at a house party in Pittsburgh left two people dead and at least eight injured, city officials said, the latest in a string of high-profile incidents of gun violence that have unfolded across the country in recent days.

Police said they responded just after 12:30 a.m. to a property in Pittsburgh’s East Allegheny neighborhood, where about 200 people had been attending a party at a house that had been rented via Airbnb.

More than 90 rounds were fired, prompting some partygoers to jump out of windows, Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott E. Schubert said at a news conference Sunday afternoon.

“It was a very chaotic scene. You had people who were fleeing — you know, just trying to get out of there,” Schubert said.

Many of the partygoers were underage and one victim was 14, Schubert said. Police believe there was more than one shooter and do not yet have anyone in custody, he added. He asked anyone with information about the shooting to contact law enforcement.

A video from the party, verified by The Washington Post, showed partygoers packed inside the home when a man began shouting, “He got a gun! … We gotta go! We gotta go!”

A shooting at a house party in Pittsburgh left two people dead and at least eight others suffering from gunshot wounds, police said on April 17. (Video: Reuters)

With little to no light, people tried to wedge their way through the standing-room-only crowd. Midway through the video, the sound of gunfire can be heard, and the shouts turned into screams as panicked partygoers searched for an exit.

On Sunday, Schubert said there was an “altercation” at the party and that shortly afterward gunshots were fired both inside and outside the house, “potentially back and forth.”

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Two boys under age 18 were killed in the shooting, police said. Officers and emergency workers took some victims to hospitals, while others arrived on their own. Police said at least five people suffered injuries that included broken bones and cuts.

A spokesman for the Allegheny Health Network confirmed Sunday that seven victims had been taken to Allegheny General Hospital with gunshot wounds and other injuries. He did not provide names or details about their conditions.

Two other victims were taken to a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center facility, a UPMC representative said.

Police initially said in a statement that there were 11 gunshot victims, including the two who died, but Schubert said later Sunday that there were 10. Several young people fled the area on foot and in vehicles.

“This is our priority, and we’re not going to sleep until we get who did this,” Schubert said. “This shouldn’t have happened and we’re sick about it, and we’re going to do everything we can to get those responsible for it.”

Two cans of Mike’s Hard Lemonade and one Air Jordan sneaker lying in the street near the house, on Suismon Street and Madison Avenue, were the only signs of the party in what is typically a quiet working-class neighborhood of mostly brick rowhouses.

The rest of the scene appeared grim: Broken glass littered the sidewalks near the home, and three of its windows — two to the side and one in the back — were completely shot out. The front door to the house was open, with two imprints on it that suggested it had been kicked in. Bullet holes could still be seen in vehicles nearby.

Early Sunday afternoon, a girl who did not want to be identified returned to the neighborhood to retrieve her car, a white Toyota hit with bullets on its side and windshield. She said the party had been advertised around the neighborhood via paper posters. She said she did not know who started shooting or why.

“There were like a million people” at the party, said a female neighbor who spoke on the condition of anonymity because police had told her not to discuss her surveillance footage with anyone else.

The neighbor said underage people poured into the party all night and that several neighbors called police about loud music around 9 p.m. Saturday.

Asked why the party hadn’t been broken up earlier, Schubert said he was not aware of noise complaints to police before the shooting and said he would look into those calls.

Once the shooting started, the neighbor said, she saw people run out of the house and later saw bloodstains on cars parked nearby. One bullet went through her front window and into her living room; the house next door also had a bullet hole in the window, she said.

“Right now I am trying to stay calm,” she said.

Officials are processing evidence at eight crime scenes, and detectives are interviewing witnesses and reviewing video footage, police said.

Another neighbor, Mitchell Wilston, 30, said before the shooting broke out, a line of people had been waiting to go inside the house. “People were all lined up like it was a club,” he said.

Wilston said his neighbors had called police around 9 p.m. “Everyone looked like they were 15,” he said.

After the shooting, he said, blood was smeared on his car. Surveillance footage from Wilston’s security camera showed that police were at the party house as early as 11 p.m. Saturday.

Surveillance video captured on April 17 showed police arriving at an Airbnb rental property in Pittsburgh less than two hours before gunfire erupted. (Video: Mitchell Wilston)

Wilston said he believed the house had been used for bachelor and bachelorette parties before Saturday, but that the biggest problem neighbors had with the Airbnb before the weekend was simply pizza boxes left on the curb.

Airbnb, in a statement, said it has a strict ban on parties at its listings and confirmed that the gathering in Pittsburgh was an “unauthorized party, thrown without the knowledge or consent of the host.”

The company pointed out that the host had stipulated on the listing page that there were no parties allowed, that there was a noise curfew between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., and that any evidence of parties would result in a $500 fee.

“We share the Pittsburgh community’s outrage regarding this tragic gun violence,” Airbnb spokesman Ben Breit said. “Our hearts go out to all who were impacted — including loved ones of those who lost their lives, injured victims and neighbors.”

Breit said the guest who had made the booking has been issued a lifetime ban from Airbnb and that the company is “considering all legal options to hold this person accountable.”

Calls to people who were listed as the homeowners according to property records were not immediately returned Sunday.

During a news conference Sunday, several Pittsburgh city and law enforcement officials, including the police chief, condemned the spread of illegal guns in Pittsburgh, echoing officials from other cities in which other mass shootings have taken place in recent days.

On Wednesday, a gunman filled a New York City subway car with smoke, then opened fire on the train, injuring 10 people and traumatizing scores of other commuters. Authorities have since arrested Frank R. James, a 62-year-old man who had a history of posting angry, bigoted videos online.

On Saturday, three people were detained after 10 people were shot at a mall in Columbia, S.C.; police said they did not believe that attack was random. On Sunday, police said at least nine people were shot at a restaurant in Furman, S.C. Earlier this month, a mass shooting in downtown Sacramento left six people dead and a dozen wounded, in an incident that police said had been preceded by a “large fight.”

The mass shootings came as President Biden took steps last week to crack down on “ghost guns” and renewed his calls for Congress to pass a ban on assault rifles. Biden also announced the nomination of Steve Dettelbach to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which has been without a Senate-confirmed leader since 2015.

Wang reported from Washington. Timsit reported from London. JM Rieger, Elyse Samuels and Magda Jean-Louis in Washington contributed to this report.

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