Two young girls critical following shooting
WILKES-BARRE - Two young children remain in critical condition late Sunday night, the victims of gun violence in Wilkes-Barre.
The victims, ages 2 and 5, remain in critical condition in Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. The 5-year-old was in critical but stable condition and the 2-year-old was in critical condition, said Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis at 4:15 p.m. Sunday. She did not release the names of the girls.
Police responded to a shooting at the Sherman Hills apartment complex around 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and found two children in need of urgent medical attention.
Ambulances took the victims from the scene. A LifeFlight helicopter flew them to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.
Earlier, police blocked off North Empire Road just past Parkview Circle in the complex as they searched the scene. Several evidence markers lay on a hill outside an apartment with a shattered glass door.
One nearby resident, who did not give his name, said he heard several gunshots that afternoon, then saw two men running down the hill that would later be marked for evidence. Police carried the victims down the hill to a parking lot. One victim looked to be about 2 years old and the other also looked young, the man said. A woman was screaming that her kids had been shot, he said.
Brian Lee, 34, who lives in the adjacent Interfaith Heights apartment complex, said he heard screaming coming from Sherman Hills and ran to see what was happened.
"I saw the cops carrying a little girl, They put her down, trying to do CPR on her. Then they carried another kid down," he said.
Police searched the area and at one point seemed to move to apprehend somebody. A contingent of officers swept the complex, stopping people trying to enter buildings and asking for identification.
"Come here, both of you," and officer was overheard telling two men. "We're investigating a shooting."
Other officers stopped in a nearby minimarket to investigate.
"If you see anything, give us a call," one officer said to a man.
Police had a lead later that afternoon. Luzerne County 911 broadcast an all-points bulletin for a maroon minivan with a tire on the roof around 4:45 p.m. Suspects were said to be inside the vehicle and were expected to be armed and dangerous. Less than an hour later, city police pulled over a maroon Dodge Caravan with a tire tied to its roof on South Empire Street near Mayflower Crossing apartments.
People gathered as officers handcuffed three men and two women and sat them on the curb, waiting for transportation. One of the women complained loudly to police about her Visa card. A man put up his middle finger as photographers tried to take his picture. A police van took away the men, and the women left in separate cruisers. Falzone Towing towed the van from the scene.
Police also took at least one person in handcuffs from the scene of the shooting. It's unclear if those people are charged with any crime. Police did not release the names of the detained or identifying information as of press time Saturday night, and a press release from city spokeswoman Liza Prokop said officials "will not speculate on specific details of the incident while it is under investigation at this time."
Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton issued a statement Saturday after the shooting.
"I am shocked, saddened, and angered that such young lives now hang in jeopardy because of the hand of a gunman. We do not yet know the full circumstances of what led to this tragedy today but we will get to the bottom of this," Leighton said. "Those who committed this heinous and despicable act will be brought to justice. No parent should ever face a day such as this. The escalating violence in our neighborhoods must end. I will use every power of my office to stop this senseless cycle of violence."
Neighbors at the scene of the shooting said the sounds of gunfire in the area have become common. Some said they heard shots fired Friday night, too. Few people wanted to give their names.
"Get it shut down," one woman said.
"I've been here for 10 years," said a man. "I told the manager, you let this (expletive) go on, this happens."
Complex management refused on Saturday to comment.
On Sunday, investigators continued to pursue multiple leads and have not charged anyone in connection, according to a press release by city spokeswoman Liza Prokop.
"Everybody wants answers for this case, being that the public is very afraid with everything going on, and I am very much aware of that," Salavantis said. "That's why we have Wilkes-Barre, my office, the state police have provided as much assistance as we possibly can to investigating this."
Salavantis said she does not believe the attack was perpetrated by a random shooter.
"This is not something where I feel that there's going to be a gunman on the loose or there's someone that could put the public in jeopardy," she said.
"That's why you haven't heard anything from me with regards to whether this was random or if the public should be alarmed."