At least one person opened fire at a large backyard party in the upstate New York city of Rochester early Saturday, killing two people and wounding 14 others in their late teens to early 20s, police said.
The shooting sent about 100 people fleeing in a “very chaotic scene,” Acting Police Chief Mark Simmons said.
Police are trying to determine who — and how many people — opened fire. No suspects were in custody, and no motive was immediately known, Simmons said.
The shooting moved Mayor Lovely Warren to visit the neighborhood Saturday and call for calm and healing in a city recently roiled by protests in a different high-profile case — the death of Daniel Prude after an encounter with police earlier this year.
“A number of our young people — babies — that came to just hang out a little while … left running for their lives (Saturday). And that’s just something that we cannot have happen,” Warren told reporters.
Warren said she spoke to the party’s host, who said she “invited a couple friends over, who invited a couple friends over who invited a couple friends over.”
“And it just got out of control. She’s just traumatized,” Warren said.
The two who died were between roughly 18 and 22 years old, Simmons said, without releasing their names.
The 14 wounded are from 17 to 23 years old, and were taken to two hospitals with what are believed to be non-life-threatening injuries, police said.
Police responded to calls of gunshots around 12:25 a.m. and found dozens of people running away, Simmons said.
The party happened despite several restrictions on gatherings. Rochester had told residents, because of the coronavirus pandemic, to limit social gatherings to household members and not to gather in groups, according to the city’s website
Additionally, the city since July has banned gatherings of more than five people from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. to curb what the city said was a rise in violence.
Police were not aware of the party beforehand, and had not received any calls for disturbance, Simmons said.
The neighborhood where the shooting happened is near the Rochester Public Market, according to a report in the Democrat & Chronicle.
The shooting comes as the city and police department deal with the case of Prude, who died in March after Rochester police pinned him to the ground. The release of body camera footage this month led to protests and accusations that local leaders hid details about Prude’s death from the public.
SImmons this week succeeded the previous chief, who was fired over the fallout. A New York City law firm is leading an independent investigation into the city’s handling of the case. Also, New York ‘s attorney general has said she would empanel a grand jury to investigate Prude’s death.
“For our community, (which) is right now going through so much, to have to be dealt with this tragedy (Saturday’s shooting), needlessly — for people who decide to act in a violent manner — is unfortunate and shameful,” Simmons said early Saturday.
“We’re going to do everything that we can as a department to bring those people involved to justice,” he said.
Mayor asks for calm and prayers
Counselors — including those from the city’s schools — are going to be available at five Rochester recreation centers Saturday afternoon to support the community in the shooting’s wake, Warren said.
Warren asked the city to “stay calm and allow these folks (police) to do what they need to do to bring” whoever was involved in Saturday’s shooting “to justice.”
She also asked “everyone to obey the (11 p.m.) curfew … and not have these mass gatherings.”
“Please keep our city in your prayers. Keep the families in your prayers, and of course all these neighbors that live here that had to experience this tragic situation who are all hurting and suffering and crying right now,” she said.