The mass shooting at a suburban Pittsburgh cookout that left five people and an unborn baby dead was a prepared “execution” by two cold-hearted gunmen, authorities said Thursday.
“The murders were planned. They were calculated, brutal,” District Attorney Stephen Zappala told reporters the day after the backyard massacre. He said it was one of the worst crimes he’s seen in 18 years on the job.
Zappala said the shooters — who remain at large and have not been identified — had one or two intended targets at a party with about 15 people.
The ambush killed Shada Mahone, 26; Tina Shelton, 37; and siblings Jerry Shelton, 35, Brittany Powell, 27, and Chanetta Powell, 25, who had a baby due in May, police said. Police ruled the unborn baby’s death as a homicide.
A neighbor cries at the scene of the massacre Wednesday night.
The shooting left LaMont Shelton, also a sibling of some victims, and a second man critically wounded. A woman was treated for her wounds and released, according to the Post-Gazette.
All eight of the shooting victims were related as cousins or siblings, and all had young children.
Jessica Shelton, the mother and aunt of several victims, broke down in tears while speaking in a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
(Left to right) Shada Mahone, Brittany Powell, and Jerry Michael Shelton are among the victims killed in the mass shooting.
“You didn’t just take innocent lives,” she said, addressing the cowardly killers.
“You made children lose their parents.”
The party was held Wednesday night behind a home in Wilkinsburg, a blighted suburb with about 16,000 residents. More than 20% of the population lives below the poverty line, according to census data.
While the partygoers played cards and cooked on a warm spring night, one gunman in an alley opened fire with a .40-caliber pistol around 11 p.m., police said.
The partygoers ran for safety, but the second gunman, hiding behind a chain-link fence, sprayed bullets at them with a high-velocity .762-caliber rifle, Zappala said.
That second shooting left four people dead on the back porch.
Members of the community react at the scene of the deadly shooting in suburban Pittsburgh.
“They were all head shots,” Zappala said.
Another victim died in a hospital.
Police recovered nearly 50 shell casings at the scene, which was strewn with abandoned cups and overturned chairs.
The shooting at a backyard cookout left five people dead, including a pregnant woman.
Children were inside the home when the gunfire erupted, but they were not injured, police said.
One neighbor said the horrific hail of bullets lasted for nearly a minute.
“I thought it was maybe the pipes bursting,” James Boyd told the Post-Gazette.
Jessica Shelton (second from right), the mother and aunt of several victims, breaks down during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
“But then we realized it was gunshots. We’ve had trouble in this neighborhood before but never this close to home. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”