The shooting comes as Rochester’s police department has witnessed days of protests over the death of resident Daniel Prude, caused when officers put a hood over his head
Rochester: Gunfire at a backyard party killed two people and wounded 14 others early on Saturday in New York state’s Rochester, a city that has been roiled in recent weeks by outrage over the suffocation death of Daniel Prude.
As many as 100 people were at the gathering when the shooting started just before 12.30 am, Acting Police Chief Mark Simmons told reporters.
Police were still trying to piece together who opened fire and why. Simmons said it was too early to say whether more than one person was shooting or who the intended targets may have been.
A man and woman, estimated to be in their late teens or early 20s, were killed, Simmons said. None of the wounded people were believed to have life-threatening injuries.
The acting chief said no suspects were in custody.
“This is truly a tragedy of epic proportions,” Simmons said in a news conference held near the home. “I mean 16 victims is unheard of, and for our community, who’s right now going through so much, to have to be dealt with this tragedy, needlessly, for people who decide to act in a violent manner is unfortunate and shameful.”
The shooting comes as the city in Western New York has been rocked by protests over Prude’s death, caused when Rochester police officers put a hood over his head to stop him from spitting, then pushed his face into the pavement and held him down until he stopped breathing.
The details of Prude’s death only emerged this month, leading to allegations of a cover-up and calls for the arrests of the officers involved.
On Monday, the city’s mayor fired Police Chief La’Ron Singletary, who she said initially misled her about the circumstances of the March death. Other senior police officials announced they would retire or leave top command positions.
The acting police chief, Simmons, expressed frustration that someone had held a large, late-night party amid that tumult, apparently in defiance of a state ban on large gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is yet another tragedy where individuals are having these illegal, unsanctioned house parties taking place in these properties, which — number one — is not safe because of COVID, because of the conditions,” Simmons said. “And then you add in alcohol and violence and it just becomes a recipe for disaster.”
Officers responding to calls of shots fired found “approximately 100 people” running from the scene, Simmons said. Before the call, police were not aware of the party and had received no complaints about noise, he said.
The wounded were being treated at local hospitals. Two more people were hurt while fleeing, the Major Crimes Unit said in a tweet. Despite the lack of arrests, Simmons said there was no reason to believe the neighborhood was unsafe.
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren issued a statement asking for “prayers and support for all involved.”
“I’m begging everyone to remain calm and exercise deep restraint as RPD investigates what happened here and seeks those responsible,” she said.
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