Thu, Aug 06, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Gunman opens fire on aerobics class, kills three

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE AND AP , BRIDGEVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA

A man carrying guns and a gym bag walked into a busy fitness center just outside Pittsburgh on Tuesday evening and opened fire, killing at least three people and wounding nearly a dozen others, the police and witnesses said.

The shooting took place about 8:15pm at an LA Fitness center aerobics class in a shopping center in Collier Township.

Authorities said the man pulled out at least two guns and fired 52 shots.

Charles Moffatt, the superintendent of the Allegheny County Police Department, said on Tuesday that three woman and one man were dead. The police believe he was the gunman. The rest of the victims were all women.

Moffatt said the gunman was a member of the health club and had identification but that police needed to check fingerprints and speak to his family to confirm his identity.

“He did not say anything,” Moffatt said of the gunman. “He walked right to the room as if he knew where he was going and started shooting.”

“I don’t think anyone could have stopped him,” Moffatt said.

By the time local the police responded, within about five minutes, the shooting was over, the authorities said. Two handguns and black duffel bag were recovered at the scene.

As dozens of emergency vehicles converged on the sprawling shopping center and closed off the scene, panicked gym-goers — some bloodied and wounded — fled the fitness center and scrambled for safety.

By early yesterday, Moffatt said two victims remained critical, two were in surgery and two had been treated and released, with the others still hospitalized

One woman, Stacey Falk, 26, told the Pittsburgh Post-­Gazette that the gunman appeared clean-shaven and short, wearing workout clothes as he entered the aerobics studio where she was exercising with as many as 40 other women.

The man stood in a corner for a brief moment, Falk said, then put his bag on the floor, shut the lights and began spraying the room with bullets from what appeared to be a short-barrel rifle.

“Girls were just ducking behind each other,” she said. “All I could hear were shots and screams.”

Another woman who was in the gym, Lauren Dooley, 26, told the paper that the gym descended into chaos as soon as the shooting began. Dooley was on a treadmill with headphones on but still counted as many as 15 shots.

“I saw people flying off the treadmills, hitting the ground,” she said. “We crawled through the fire escape and I sprinted out the back.”

Joann Gazzam, who was taking part in the weekly “Latin Impact” dance aerobics class, saw the gunman walk to the back of the room near some weights, set down a bag and fumble with it for a few minutes before coming up with what appeared to be two guns and opening fire, according to her sister, Debi Wozniak, of suburban Dormont.

Gazzam told Wozniak that the instructor was among those who appeared to have been shot, and that the gunman had killed himself.

“She told me, ‘Debi, I seen everything. Oh, my God, I seen everything. I seen him pull out the guns,’” said Wozniak, who usually attends the class but was running late on Tuesday.

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