The city of Wilkinsburg, PA is currently mourning the loss of six people following a mass shooting during a cookout. Police believe the incident was premeditated and drugs may have been the motive for two gunmen with a rifle and a pistol to fire nearly 50 times during the family festivity.
“The murders were planned, calculated, brutal,” said Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala.
The victims have been identified as siblings: Jerry Shelton, 35, Brittany Powell, 27, Chanetta Powell, 25, Tina Shelton, 37, and Shada Mahone, 26. Chanetta was eight months pregnant and her unborn child was the sixth victim. She also had another son that was critically wounded in the shooting.
“It looks like right now they were all fleeing toward the back door of the residence when the second gunman fired from the side of the yard,” said Lt. Andrew Schurman of the Allegheny County homicide unit. “They all seemed to get caught on the back porch.”
Four of the deceased were found on the back porch with multiple gun shots wounds including shots to the head.
The gunmen fled on foot and police said they have no suspects. At the onset of the shooting fifteen of the guests were outside playing cards. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald urged witnesses to step forward, saying that “can be our first step to stopping the violence in our communities.”
“As a community, we must say enough is enough,” he said.
Jessica Shelton, the mother of the siblings and aunt of the other two killed, had left the party prior to the shooting. “My whole family was massacred. It doesn’t make sense to take people’s lives like that,” she said.
The city of Wilkinsburg is a mostly impoverished neighborhood, east of Pittsburgh that is known for drug trafficking and gun violence. However, neighbors described the particular area in which the shooting took place as a relatively quiet “safe haven” for many residents.
James Boyd, 70, has lived in a home three doors away from the shooting for nearly 25 years. He told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the gunfire “went on for almost a minute.”
“I thought it was maybe the pipes bursting. But then we realized it was gunshots. We’ve had trouble in this neighborhood before but never this close to home,” Boyd said. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”