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1 dead, 8 injured after mass shooting near IUP campus

  • By Sydney Roach | WPSU
Community members stand outside the Indiana County Courthouse for a vigil after a shooting near IUP's campus.

 Indiana Borough Police Department

Community members stand outside the Indiana County Courthouse for a vigil after a shooting near IUP's campus.

State police are investigating a mass shooting that happened about two miles from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus early Sunday.

State police in Indiana County say at least nine people were shot at a private party around 12:35 a.m. Sunday. One of those people died. He was a 22-year-old from Pittsburgh. Six remain hospitalized, one critically, while two had been treated and released, police said later Sunday.

The shooting happened at the Chevy Chase Community Center. Investigators believe there was more than one shooter. Lt. Colonel George Bivens says police have collected thousands of pieces of evidence for forensic testing.

“Dozens of gunshots were fired within the confines of the building,” said Bivens, acknowledging later that “It may well be that we had a gunfight inside this building.” Many fired shell casings and “multiple firearms” had been recovered, along with other evidence such as clothing and cellphones, he said.

Bivens said, however, that officials believe events were “isolated to the attendees at that party” and did not believe the threat was directed at the community at large.

Bivens said police were originally called about midnight about excessive noise coming from the building, and patrol officers were assured that the noise would be turned down. A state police mounted unit was sent to monitor the situation and for crowd control if needed.

Upon arrival, mounted unit members heard gunshots inside, called for backup, and then heard more gunshots and saw people fleeing from doors and windows. Some began to aid to injured people “collapsing outside the building,” and others went inside and found more victims, Bivens said. No state police or horses were injured, he said.

Bivens said more than 150 people were believed to be present at the time of the shooting, and the building wasn’t particularly large and would have been “very full” at the time. When the shooting began, those inside “exited that building in any way possible,” he said.

“You can imagine the chaos that would ensue from a number of gunshots in a relatively confined space,” he said. “People dove through windows, people ran through doors, ran through porch railings, trying to get away from that scene.”

The school’s vice president for student affairs, Thomas Segar, said two of the injured were students, and officials were working with their families to provide support. Campus activities were going on as scheduled with enhanced police presence, a university official said.

“We understand that incidents like last night’s violence are frightening and may cause continued feelings of fear and worry,” Segar said, before providing information about mental health support and counseling.

Neighbor Robert Miller said he and his wife heard loud music coming from the building as they were about to go to bed.

“Then all of a sudden, I heard about 20 gunshots,” he told the Tribune-Review. “There was people lying on the edge of the sidewalk out there. It’s terrifying.”

His wife, Ellen Ober, said, “There were people everywhere crying and screaming.”

A vigil was held Sunday night at the Indiana County Courthouse. In a Facebook post, the Indiana Borough Police Department said “Together, we stand strong against such senseless violence.”

Police are asking people to check their security cameras and video doorbells and for anyone who might have information to call Troop A, Indiana at 724-357-1960.

Officials are tracking down who rented the venue for the party, which required payment of a fee before entry, and who was hosting the event, Bivens said.

No suspects were in custody, and police asked anyone with information to contact troopers in Indiana County. Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers announced a $10,000 reward for information in the case leading to arrests and prosecution, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has offered up to $5,000 more.

The shooting scene is about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the campus of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which was having its homecoming weekend.

Trooper Cliff Greenfield said investigators were trying to gather as much information as possible from witnesses.

“Clearly we have not been able to interview everyone who was there,” he said. “People were fleeing the scene — it was a chaotic scene.”

The Chevy Chase Community Center was built in 1971 by a group established in 1969 to fight poverty and help those in need, according to its website. The center says its mission is to “cultivate, nurture, and sustain a peaceful and inclusive culture that brings community together with positivity, diversity, inclusion, education, nutrition, and love.”

Indiana County District Attorney Robert Manzi Jr., who is listed on the center’s board of directors, said the center provided “meals and a community atmosphere for people in need” and “has served as a place to help members of our community for many decades.”

Nearby resident Lillian Clemons told the Tribune-Review that she is a former director of the center and that her brother is among the many people who get meals there. She said she believes the center shouldn’t be rented out on what she called “crazy weekends” such as homecoming.

“I’m about to cry. It’s hurtful because everybody struggles to keep this,” she said. “This was a service for the community. That’s what we need it for, for the people.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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