The city of Rochester, New York, was rocked early Saturday by a mass shooting at a house party that left two young people dead and 14 wounded.
“This is truly a tragedy of epic proportions, if you ask me,” Acting Police Chief Mark Simmons said at a predawn press conference.
“Sixteen victims is unheard of. And for our community, who’s right now going through so much, to have to deal with this tragedy needlessly—for people who decide to act in a violent manner—is unfortunate and shameful.
“We’re going to do everything that we can as a department to bring those people involved to justice.”
Dozens of rounds were fired, sending up to 100 people running from the scene, which one witness described as “an all-out war zone.”
“So many people going in so many directions, so many different ways, driving on the grass, trying to get out of here,” the witness told WHAM.
Witnesses said that some terror-stricken party-goers were hiding in the bushes after the gunfire. One woman told WHAM that a victim ended up on her porch.
“She was laying down on the floor, and we thought she was having, like, a meltdown from the shooting or whatever,” the neighbor said.
“She pulled up her shirt and I just started screaming, ‘She’s shot! She’s shot!’”
One resident, Jasmin Lopez, told the Democrat and Chronicle that it was a chaotic scene. “There were kids throwing up, hiding between bushes, bleeding,” she said. Another neighbor, John Santiago, said he found two tweens hiding in his driveway who looked terrified.
The shooting comes two weeks after the city was gripped by unrest over the suffocation death of Daniel Prude in police custody. That led the entire Rochester police leadership to resign.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren appealed for calm, saying in a statement, “I’m begging everyone to remain calm and exercise deep restraint as RPD investigates what happened here and seeks those responsible.”
The acting chief noted that the party where the gunfire erupted should not have been happening due to coronavirus restrictions and an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew on gatherings of more than five people, put in place to stem gun violence in the city.
“This is yet another tragedy where individuals are having these illegal, unsanctioned house parties taking place on these properties which, number one, is not safe because of COVID, because of the conditions, and then you add in alcohol and violence and it becomes a recipe for disaster,” Simmons said.