Man Shoots Twelve Women at Suburban Pittsburgh Health Club

By Joe Mandak | August 5, 2009 | 5:31 AM EDT
Bridgeville, Pa. (AP) - An armed man strolled to the back of an exercise class at a health club in suburban Pittsburgh on Tuesday night and then pulled out at least two guns and fired 52 shots, killing three women and himself, and injuring at least nine other women, authorities said.
Two women and the man believed to be the shooter died at the scene Tuesday night and another woman died on the way to a hospital, Allegheny County police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said at a news conference early Wednesday.
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.
Moffatt said police were not sure who the target of the shooting was but that the gunman went into the health club planning to shoot several people -- he fired his gun "indiscriminately," Moffatt said -- and did not say anything before unleashing a burst of bullets.
"He walked right into the room where the shootings occurred as if he knew exactly where he was going," Moffatt said.
"I don't think anyone could have stopped him."
The violence erupted at the L.A. Fitness Center in Bridgeville, a community of about 5,000 residents not far from downtown Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh International Airport.
Five victims arrived in critical condition at UPMC Mercy Hospital, and two women were listed in fair condition at Allegheny General Hospital, hospital officials said. Two female victims were in stable condition at St. Clair Hospital, spokesman Rich Sieber said.
By early Wednesday, Moffatt said two victims remained critical, two were in surgery and two had been treated and released, with the others still hospitalized. Moffatt said police know the names of the wounded women, but aren't releasing them immediately, and he couldn't specify which victims were in which hospital.
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 Tuesday and didn't make it.
Moffatt said police recovered at least two guns from the scene and that a note was found in the shooter's duffel bag, but he would not say whether the shooter had written it. He would not discuss a possible motive for the shooting, whose victims were not immediately identified.
"As you can imagine in a fitness club, they don't have identification on them," he said.
Loretta Moss, 44, of McDonald, said she was exercising on a treadmill when she heard a popping noise.
"I didn't pay any attention, and the next minute, people were screaming," said Moss, who had come to the gym Tuesday night for the first time in a couple of weeks. She said she then heard more pops.
"There was like a whole spray of them. I'd say about 15 altogether, and then people started screaming and yelling and started running out the building," she said.
"We laid down, and then after the last set of ... gunshots, we got up, and someone said run."
Moss said she then saw two young women bleeding, one shot in the leg and one in the shoulder. She said she checked on the pulse of the lady shot in the leg.
"She was screaming, 'It's burning, just please call the ambulance,'" Moss said.
Richard Walker of Tulsa, Okla., who is in the area working on oil rigs, was playing basketball near the exercise room when he heard shots.
"The next thing I know, everybody's going, 'Run, run,'" he said. He said heard about 12 shots before he started moving and another eight or nine as he was leaving the building. He led a woman who had been shot in the thigh outside the building about 50 yards.
"She just kept saying, 'He's gonna kill me.'" Walker said she didn't elaborate.
Brad Bolt of Dormont and Phil Fagan of Green Tree, both 20, were working out in a room next to the aerobics class. They both said they heard about a dozen rapidly fired shots and Fagan said a girl came running out of the exercise room, yelling "Shots fired, call 911, get out."
The fitness center, which opened last year, is in a strip mall called the Great Southern Shopping Center, where a few businesses were destroyed in a 2006 fire. The fitness center said in a statement: "Each of us in the LA Fitness family are shocked and saddened by the senseless acts of violence that took place."
Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, who was out of town on vacation with his family, was briefed by police after the shootings, which he called "an unspeakable tragedy."
"I ask everyone to keep those affected by this tragic event in their thoughts and prayers," he said.
Associated Press writer Kimberly Hefling in Bridgeville, Pa., contributed to this report.
"He walked right into the room where the shootings occurred as if he knew exactly where he was going," a police official said.