Less than an hour into Easter Sunday, nearly 100 gunshots sent hundreds of young people — many of them teenagers — running into the streets on Pittsburgh’s North Side.
At least 50 shots were fired inside a three-story home on Madison Avenue at Suismon Street, authorities said, and just as many popped off outside. Some rained down from above, shattering the windows and windshields of several cars in a lot across the street. Shards of glass littered the street, sidewalk and parking lot.
“It was a war scene,” said Chris Rosselot, who has lived on nearby Vinial Street for 15 years.
The scene, police Chief Scott Schubert said, was one of chaos.
About 200 people were inside the home, rented as an Airbnb, when the gunfire began. The sheer volume of shots sent partygoers scrambling. Some chose to jump from the windows. Officers who arrived first at the scene were met with the sounds of more gunshots and victims trying to flee, Schubert said.
“You had people who were fleeing, just trying to get out of there,” Schubert said. “You had officers and medics who were trying to tend to victims that they found. We would be notified that there was a victim in this location over here. There were multiple scenes, and it was very complex and very chaotic.”
When the shooting stopped, two teenage boys were dead, and eight other people were injured by gunfire, Schubert said. Five others were hurt trying to escape the melee.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office identified the victims as Matthew Steffy-Ross, 17, of Pitcairn, and Jaiden Brown, 17. No address was given for Brown.
“It’s heartbreaking,” he said. “Here we are, Easter, and we have multiple families, two that won’t see a loved one and others that are going to — how can you even have a holiday when your child was involved in something traumatic like this? And all the others who were at the incident. This is traumatizing.”
Pittsburgh police give update on fatal mass shooting at AirBnb party https://t.co/6lZm93VAqM
— Megan Guza (@meganguzaTrib) April 17, 2022
No arrests had been made as of Sunday night.
Four Pittsburgh Public Schools students were among the injured, district spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said.
All schools in the district will operate under a modified lockdown Monday, meaning no one can enter any campus without an appointment. Interim Superintendent Wayne Walters said the decision was made out of an abundance of caution.
“So many families were impacted by (Sunday’s) tragedy,” he said. “Our thoughts are with the families of lost loved ones and anyone experiencing grief and trauma during this time.”
Ballistic evidence indicates there were multiple shooters, Schubert said. It wasn’t clear the circumstances of why people were firing. He said evidence suggests there were handguns and at least one long gun.
“It is our top priority to find out who did this and get them off the street,” he said.
Paramedics transported some of the injured. Others arrived at various hospitals by private vehicle, Schubert said. Police officers also drove some of the victims to the hospital.
Schubert implored anyone with information, photos or videos from the party to come forward. Some have, he said. Anyone who has photos or videos can upload them online at ccudata2.quickconnect.to/sharing/uwOEfECnP.
Bullet holes bound
Hours after the shooting — after police released the scene and picked up evidence markers, leaving balled-up yellow tape and stickers marking bullet holes — Rosselot walked to the house.
He said he spoke to a man who told him he had been renting the bottom apartment unit of the Airbnb and was returning to retrieve some items.
The man told Rosselot he and his children left the Airbnb at 11:30 pm Saturday because the party upstairs was getting too chaotic. The man said he called the police at the same time.
According to Rosselot, when the man returned to the unit, he said, he found bullet holes in the wall.
Police investigate at the scene of an early morning mass shooting in Pittsburgh’s north side. A nearby parked vehicle can be seen smeared with blood. Reports of 11 individuals shot, 2 fatally @TribLIVE #Pittsburgh pic.twitter.com/1D4fqYnpL0
— Shane Dunlap (@shanedunlap) April 17, 2022
Nearly two dozen bullet holes could be seen in buildings at the corner of Turtle Way and Peralta Street, more than 100 feet away from the house.
A red building on Peralta and Turtle had about 16 apparent bullet holes in its side, including one in a second-floor window.
Across the street from that red building, another residence on Peralta had at least five visible holes in its front, including one in a first-floor window and another in a second-floor window.
The property owners of the Peralta Street home told the Tribune-Review their second-floor tenant was shaken up because a bullet hit the comforter on her bed. The owners would not reveal their names, fearing retribution, but said a video from a Ring camera on the first floor of the residence captured the shooting scene and has been sent to Pittsburgh police.
Mitchell Wilston, 30, lives a few doors down from the property at Madison and Suismon.
He said, by 11 pm Saturday, the area was crowded with people and cars, and a line of people waited to get into the party. He said he noticed a police presence but no efforts to break up the party.
“It was mayhem,” he said.
Police scanner audio indicated a dispatcher sent officers to the scene about 12:39 am
An officer spoke up and noted, “Be advised, there is a very large party at that 900 Madison Avenue that we checked earlier.”
Wilston said he and his wife left the area at 11:30 pm to go Downtown for a gathering and were not home at the time of the shooting.
On Sunday morning, they saw blood on one of their cars parked on Suismon.
Emily Mallon, who lives near the scene, said she heard the shots clearly. She said she thought they were fireworks at first but then saw at least two dozen people running from the Airbnb. She said they scattered in different directions. Some ran for help at Verdetto’s, a bar not far from the house.
She said the initial chaos lasted about two minutes.
“It was a frantic scene,” she said.
Mallon said she knows the property is rented as an Airbnb and has hosted parties, but she said nothing has reached this scale. The neighborhood, she said, is generally a quiet one.
Jared Stelmach also heard the shots from his Peralta Street home. He described what unfolded as chaos.
“A lot of people were screaming, and a lot of cars were speeding away,” Stelmach said. “People were booking it.”
Glasses, a jacket and several shoes littered the area around the scene.
Across the street, where the shooting happened, a shattered second-story window hung open. Another window was also shattered.
Airbnb: Renter banned for life
Ben Breit, a spokesman for Airbnb, said only adults are permitted to book a property, and parties are supposed to be strictly prohibited.
The individual who booked the home where the shooting happened will be banned for life, Breit said, and the company “will be considering all legal options to hold this person accountable.”
“Our hearts go out to all who were impacted — including loved ones of those who lost their lives, injured victims and neighbors,” Breit said.
Allegheny County real estate records listed the owner of the multi-lot property as 900 North Group LLC, which has an owner address in Whitehall, about 10 miles away.
It was not immediately clear to whom the property had been rented.
Mayor asks for help amid a violent spring
Mayor Ed Gainey, who ran on a platform of reducing community violence and bridging community-police relations, urged anyone with information to come forward.
“We are using all available resources to find those responsible for this incident,” he said in a statement. “Thank you to the community members who have already reached out with their information, and, if you know something, say something.”
Gainey, who continues to isolate after testing positive for covid-19 Friday, said he plans to call a meeting with community members and public safety leaders to discuss ways to address violence in the city.
“It is critical that we come together now to help reduce the violence currently happening while we begin to do the long-term work of ending the culture of violence that is enabling the senseless loss of life we are experiencing today,” he said.
Sunday’s deadly incident is the latest in a spate of violence that has plagued the city as spring has worn on.
About 2 am Saturday, police in Marshall-Shadeland heard gunshots and chased an SUV to a hospital parking lot where they found a man shot in the backseat. He died at the hospital. Later in the morning, a man was stabbed in Garfield. Another man was arrested in that incident.
About 2:30 pm, three people were shot near Singer Place in the East Hills. A ShotSpotter notification about 10:30 pm capped off Saturday, leading police to a man who had been shot in the street near Center Avenue and Addison Street in the Hill District.
On Wednesday, a man was shot in the stomach in Homewood South. A day earlier, a triple shooting in the Hill District injured three men. On Monday, about 11:45 pm, a man showed up at a Pittsburgh hospital with a gunshot wound. He said he’d been shot in the Hill District but offered no other details.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism