Pennsylvania Health Club Shooting; 4 Dead, 10 Wounded

 

 
 
 

JOE MANDAK | | Tuesday, August 4, 2009


BRIDGEVILLE, Pa. - Investigators were trying to piece together the motive of a gunman who walked into an exercise class in suburban Pittsburgh and fired dozens of shots, killing three women and himself and injuring nine other women, authorities said.



Two women and the man believed to be the shooter died at the scene Tuesday night and another woman died on the way to a hospital, Allegheny County police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said at a news conference in the parking lot of the LA Fitness center in Collier Township early Wednesday.



Moffatt said police were not sure who the target of the shooting was but that the gunman went into the health club planning to shoot several people - firing "multiple" weapons "indiscriminately," Moffatt said - and did not say anything before unleashing a burst of bullets.



"He walked right into the room where the shootings occurred as if he knew exactly where he was going," Moffatt said.



The violence rocked Collier, a bedroom community of about 5,300 residents near Interstate 79, some eight miles southwest of downtown Pittsburgh.



Moffatt said the gunman was a member of the health club and had identification but that police needed to check fingerprints and speak to his family to confirm his identity. The Allegheny County Medical Examiner said three of the four victims had been positively identified early Wednesday, but their names would likely not be released before midmorning.



Moffatt said police recovered at least two guns from the scene and that a note was found in the shooter's duffel bag, but he would not say whether the shooter had written it.



"I don't think anyone could have stopped him," Moffatt said.



Five victims arrived in critical condition at UPMC Mercy Hospital, but three were upgraded to serious condition by early Wednesday. Two women remained in fair condition at Allegheny General Hospital, hospital officials said. Two female victims were in stable condition at St. Clair Hospital, spokesman Rich Sieber said Tuesday, but their conditions were not immediately available Wednesday.



By early Wednesday, Moffatt said two victims remained critical, two others were in surgery and two had reportedly been treated and released, with the others still hospitalized. Moffatt said police know the names of the wounded women, but aren't releasing them immediately, and he couldn't specify which victims were in which hospital.



Joann Gazzam, who was taking part in the weekly "Latin impact" dance aerobics class, saw the gunman walk to the back of the room near some weights, set down a bag and fumble with it for a few minutes before coming up with what appeared to be two guns and opening fire, according to her sister, Debi Wozniak, of suburban Dormont.



Gazzam told Wozniak that the instructor was among those who appeared to have been shot, and that the gunman had killed himself.



"She told me, 'Debi, I seen everything. Oh, my God, I seen everything. I seen him pull out the guns,'" said Wozniak, who usually attends the class but was running late Tuesday and didn't make it.



The gunman walked in the room, turned off the lights and, at first nobody knew what was happening, said Stacey Falk, 26, of Bridgeville, who was in the class.



"All of us girls were just ducking behind each other and it was just, you know, I was behind a girl, one of the girls in front to get hit, and when he was in the opposite corner shooting, I booked it," she told WPXI-TV.



Loretta Moss, 44, of McDonald, said she was exercising on a treadmill when she heard a popping noise.



"I didn't pay any attention, and the next minute, people were screaming," said Moss, who had come to the gym Tuesday night for the first time in a couple of weeks. She said she then heard more pops.



"There was like a whole spray of them. I'd say about 15 altogether, and then people started screaming and yelling and started running out the building," she said.



"We laid down, and then after the last set of ... gunshots, we got up, and someone said run."



Moss said she then saw two young women bleeding, one shot in the leg and one in the shoulder. She said she checked on the pulse of the lady shot in the leg.



"She was screaming, 'It's burning, just please call the ambulance,'" Moss said.



Richard Walker of Tulsa, Okla., who is in the area working on oil rigs, was playing basketball near the exercise room when he heard shots.



"The next thing I know, everybody's going, 'Run, run,'" he said. He said heard about 12 shots before he started moving and another eight or nine as he was leaving the building. He led a woman who had been shot in the thigh outside the building about 50 yards.



"She just kept saying, 'He's gonna kill me.'" Walker said she didn't elaborate.



The fitness center, which opened last year, is in a strip mall called the Great Southern Shopping Center, where a few businesses were destroyed in a 2006 fire. The fitness center said in a statement: "Each of us in the LA Fitness family are shocked and saddened by the senseless acts of violence that took place."



___



Associated Press writer Kimberly Hefling in Bridgeville, Pa., contributed to this report.




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Related Topics: Cardiac and Circulation, Incident Command, Trauma, Patient Management

 
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