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Breaking News

Five Critically Shot at Pennsylvania McDonald's

Aired March 1, 2000 - 12:59 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, from CNN center, I'm Natalie Allen.

For the second day in a row we begin with breaking news about an act of armed violence. A gunman, apparently, went on a shooting rampage today in Wilkinsburg, that's outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Five people, that we know of, have been hot in and around a McDonald's restaurant, near Burger King and some apartments. Those five people, we are told, are in critical condition.

Right now, police are believed to have the suspect cornered in a nearby building. This building contains a day care center, doctor's office and county offices. Some of the people from the building have been marched out under police guard with their hands in the air. So, that's the latest that we know at this time.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Wilkinsburg is a suburb on the southeast side of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh police are at the scene. They are playing a waiting game, apparently, with the gunman who is holed up.

We are going to join local news coverage. WPXI is showing us some carefully-chosen pictures from locations in the area, but not specifically pinpointing the location of police because the gunman is still on the loose, has not been rounded up. We have S.W.A.T. teams in the area; weapons are drawn; and we're going to be seeing squad cars at or near a professional building in the area. And that's the center of that activity right now. Let's listen to WPXI Television and what they are having to say about this.

UNIDENTIFIED WPXI-TV ANCHOR: Yes, that's a S.W.A.T. team van right there. That is on the scene that we saw earlier at the McDonald's; that is now moved closer in to the Penn-West office building. But, with the posture of the people standing behind that van would be a little more indication that something has changed here, obviously, because you do not see them crouched behind the vans.

If you look at top portion -- center portion of your screen, you can see at least one, probably, a detective walking around. There is another S.W.A.T. team member who's walking casually up to the building.

Now, just a moment ago, compare that picture that you are looking at now, live from Chopper 11, to the picture that we showed you on unedited video of several people who, obviously, were employees, people who work inside that building, who are being taken away from the scene.

Now, here's the video that I mentioned, that we looked at earlier. Now, if you watch this in just a moment, you can see guns drawn, S.W.A.T. team member in a position -- a kneeling position; and now, some employees, obviously, who are trying to leave the scene, hiding behind a car for protection; with a police officer and three S.W.A.T. team members, obviously, risking their own lives to protect those who are behind them. And, now, here comes another woman, obviously, who had found some sort of an exit; she wanted to get out. And, now, you can see two other women who are walking slowly away from the scene, not running, but walking away from the scene, being protected from behind by a shield being held by a S.W.A.T. team officer.

This was happening about 30 minutes or so ago. But we -- it appears now that maybe the scene has changed a bit, as we saw just a moment ago from Chopper 11. You don't see the officers in this type of position.

Let's go once again live in this looking now from sky zoom in Chopper 11.

Breaking news again: This is the McDonald's shooting along Penn Avenue in Wilkinsburg. We do have some critical injuries from this shooting. It is yet to be confirmed exactly how many people have been injured. Also, there are a lot of people in this area. So, probably, one of the main goals at this point is to make sure you get everybody out safely and somehow find a way to end this situation without any more injuries occurring.

Obviously, we have to be very careful as far as what we show at this particular point, as a S.W.A.T. team moves in to try to figure out what the situation is. We have yet to hear exactly what started the shooting; not really sure about that yet. But what we do know: that this has been an extremely tragic day in Wilkinsburg at the McDonald's along Penn Avenue.

Let's go back up now. High above the scene in Chopper 11, Andy Gasmeyer (ph), who's been watching this now for, I guess, about an hour or so.

Andy, it appears to me that maybe there is a different atmosphere at the moment, at least looking at the pictures that we can see.

ANDY GASMEYER (ph), REPORTER: Well, consider for a moment now: above, we've been about an hour and a half into this situation. And just within the last 20 minutes, as you just indicated in the earlier remarks, the atmosphere, I should, say seems to have changed here. We saw that S.W.A.T. team truck pull up. A couple of officers were walking up behind it. Then they were joined by maybe five or six other additional S.W.A.T. Team officers. None of them seemed to have their guns at the ready or seemed intent on going in any one direction real quick, as if there was a reason to do so hurriedly. We see the people standing outside the West-Penn office building, and they seem to be very casual about this situation right now. So you wonder a couple of things here: Has this situation been neutralized? That is: Do they have the suspect in custody inside the building? And so there is the parade-rest kind of a stance that the S.W.A.T. Team members have taken outside the building. Or, are they now in communication with this suspect and they have been able to calm him down or whatever? Or, have they been able to make contact with him through a relative, who, for all we know right now, could be on the scene?

At any rate, the atmosphere, to use your word a few moments ago, seems much more relaxed as opposed to intense as it was a half hour or so ago. So you cannot help but infer from this that, maybe, this situation is working out a lot more favorably than you might have thought a half hour ago.

But that is only a guess. And we emphasize that is only a guess at this point in time. But you would think with the officers there, as I said something of a parade-rest demeanor about them, they may have this situation under control. We have not heard directly from anybody in police yet, so it's hard to say exactly what going on down there right now.

Bob, back to you.

WPXI-TV ANCHOR: Andy, obviously, this is a very tragic situation that's happening in Wilkinsburg. We're doing our very best, as far as getting the up-to-the-minute and accurate information for you. Our entire Channel 11 newsroom is working on this story, which began about 11:30 this morning. We have numerous crews on the ground, trying to find out exactly what's happening, who's been evacuated from the scene, who is on the scene, and how many injuries has occurred at this particular point.

Amy Marcinco (ph), of course, has been with us throughout the morning, covering this tragic story, and has the latest for us now -- Amy.

AMY MARCINCO, REPORTER: Bob, I can tell you. I just talked with a man, Bill Symington(ph), he is an employee in the Metro Family Practice (ph), the office that the S.W.A.T. team is surrounding right now. He came in and he talked to me and he said that the suspect walked into his building, looked around and told the people: "I have one bullet left, I'm going to use it." Everybody was evacuated out of that building. He said the suspect was calm, cool, walked in, just spoke with them, didn't say why he was there. He thought he was a patient. He told me that an office manager and a doctor in that building is still missing. He presumed that they are inside the building, still with that suspect.

A police source of mine just came up to me and told me that the police chief here in Wilkinsburg is going to hold a news conference on this and give us the latest information in just a few minutes, so we're going to get positioned for that. And once we do and once he starts talking, we will bring that to you live, Bob.

UNIDENTIFIED WPXI-TV ANCHOR: All right, thank you, Amy. We want to Update people who are just joining us. And we have some late information now from Alan Jennings that the FBI has set up a command post at the Wilkins House. So the FBI is on the scene, and I am receiving word now that a hostage negotiator is on the scene as well.

For those of you who are just joining us during this tragic afternoon here in the city of Pittsburgh in Wilkinsburg on Penn Avenue, a shooting occurred at 11:30 this morning. The man went into the McDonald's, began firing shots, and then shot several people, walked outside and began walking about a block or so away to the building at the location you are looking at now live from chopper 11 at sky zoom, evidently shooting another victim on the way to this location.

We have confirmed reports at this particular point from Dr. Mike Rosen, who is standing by now at Presby Hospital, keeping us up to date on the medical situation, that at least four victims have been admitted to that hospital alone. They are reportedly in critical condition. There is another victim as well that has been admitted to another unnamed hospital at this particular point, and we saw another victim as well a little bit earlier, at about I would say maybe 12:40, who was taken from the scene in a Monroeville ambulance.

Now you're looking at the scene as police are there, along with the SWAT team. And as I mentioned just a moment ago, the FBI are also the scene and a hostage negotiator. However, the stance, it looks a little different from what we saw earlier today.

Do we have more of that unedited tape to give you an idea what was happening? You can see that, obviously, this is unedited video of Pittsburgh Police, Wilkinsburg Police and several other units arriving at the scene, fully loaded and preparing for whatever they might come across, and the SWAT team making its preparations. We'll be very careful, obviously, not to show you the SWAT team in action, as we do not know at this particular point what stage this incident is at, at this moment.

Earlier, we had shown you...

ALLEN: That announcer with WPXI in Pittsburgh. As you heard him say, there is one victim at Mercy Hospital. And we have a spokesperson on the phone with us now, Linda Ross.

Linda, what can you tell us about the condition of the shooting victim at your hospital?

LINDA ROSS, MERCY HOSPITAL SPOKESWOMAN: The victim that we have is a 65-year-old male, and he sustained a single gunshot wound to the head. He is listed in critical condition at this hour.

ALLEN: Do you know if this person was in or around the McDonald's with an employee, or a customer or anything about this person?

ROSS: As best we can tell, the person was probably a customer, but that's not very clear at this point. We only have information that the paramedics were able to relate to us, and we're trying to put together all those details.

ALLEN: How long has the person been receiving help there at the hospital? You mentioned he's in critical condition.

ROSS: He arrived here shortly -- approximately 10 minutes to 12:00 Eastern Standard Time.

ALLEN: And was he critical when he came to the hospital?

ROSS: Yes.

ALLEN: Condition remained the same then?

ROSS: Yes.

ALLEN: All right, Linda Ross, thank you so much, telling us that the one victim at Mercy Hospital is in critical condition, a man shot in the head. We've also been told that there are four other victims at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. All four there are reportedly in critical condition as well.

And now over to Lou.

WATERS: We have a couple of sources for our news coverage of this breaking news story in Pittsburgh. We were looking at WPXI Television. Now we're over to WTAE Television. Let's listen to their coverage, see if we can glean any new information from them.

UNIDENTIFIED WTAE-TV REPORTER: ... but we do know from police that she is now having phone conversations on a regular basis with her twin sister who is trapped -- those are the words used by Pittsburgh Police -- inside the Penn-West Office Building.

SCOTT BAKER, WTAE-TV ANCHOR: Trapped certainly fits, and there are probably a number of people in that situation because we've only seen, as far as what we've been able to see, maybe 15 or 20 people being escorted out of a very large complex of offices. So there could be dozens of people still inside in a number of offices there.

If they were talking to the manager inside the Eckard, Jim, as you were saying, Kevin talked with us on the phone live right as this began, fully now more than an hour ago -- and we're about 90 minutes from the beginning of this situation -- he said that someone ran into the Eckard drugstore, said that there had been somebody shot in the -- Jim, I'm going to have to interrupt my accounting here, and I do want to give you -- to bring you up to speed on that, but we do have a woman on the phone. Debbie is her name.

And we understand that, Debbie Sivitz (ph), you are actually inside -- Debbie Schuldman (ph), you are inside the facility that's involved here. Debbie, where are you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're in the offices of Home Health and Sivitz Hospice on the second floor of the building, and all we want to know is that the police know we're here and that we're safe.

BAKER: And that is good word, indeed, from your report on the second floor. And certainly the police will be glad to hear that, as different people have been trying to call into the building to get reports. Do give us an idea of how many people are in your office. And have you been given -- obviously you haven't even heard from police at this point.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, actually, there are 10 of us here and we did call 911 earlier, about an hour ago, and we did let them know just to make sure that somebody knows we're here. But since we don't have a radio or a television, we're really not up to date about what's going on or where this gunman is. So we just want to be sure that nobody forgets us.

BAKER: Debbie, we do believe that he is still in the building. We know that he went into a medical office had on the first floor, took hostages there at one point, released some of them, may be holding other people hostage. We don't know if he is still in that part of the facility or not. Tell me what you did here. Let's take this back to the beginning.

WATERS: All right, Lou Waters at CNN Center again. We're watching WTAE and WPXI in Pittsburgh as they continue to cover this story which broke at 11:30 local time when a gunman, now being surrounded by police, opened fire; five shots fired, five people down.

Natalie was talking with a spokesperson from Mercy Hospital where one of the victims is right now in critical condition with a head wound. We have on the line Craig Dunhoff who's a spokesman at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

And you have victims with you, I understand?

CRAIG DUNHOFF, UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH MEDICAL CTR.: We do. We have four of the victims here.

WATERS: And their condition?

DUNHOFF: They are all in critical condition and they're still being evaluated.

WATERS: What does that mean, exactly? Are they in the emergency room?

DUNHOFF: Right, they are in the emergency room.

WATERS: Do you know what the nature of their wounds might be?

DUNHOFF: I don't at this point. All I can really give you is that they are in critical condition. I don't have information about their ages or genders or anything like that.

WATERS: OK. Do you know how long they've been at the hospital?

DUNHOFF: I would estimate an hour or so. WATERS: So it took a little time to get them out of the area there where the shooting took place.

DUNHOFF: That, I really can't say too much about.

WATERS: OK. Have you been alerted by authorities that there might be other victims, or you should be standing by for that possibility?

DUNHOFF: Well, we're always prepared for that. I'm not aware that we've been informed of any other victims.

WATERS: All right, thanks so much for talking with us, Craig Dunhoff, at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

So we have confirmed four critical at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and one critical at Mercy Hospital, as our attention turns to the life-saving efforts at those two institutions -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Let's go over again how this all began a little over an hour ago in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. That's just outside of Pittsburgh. Shots rang out at this McDonald's you're seeing on the screen. People were shot here. Someone was shot near a Burger King and in a nearby apartment building.

As Lou mentioned, five people shot, all in critical condition. The gunman is now believed holed up in a nearby office building about a block away. Some people have fled that building, as you just heard from a phone call to the local affiliates. Some people are holed up in that building and safe right now. But we're told that the gunman is holding five hostages at the moment. This building is surrounded by the SWAT team. Hostage negotiators are on the scene. That's what we know right now. We'll continue to follow developments.

WATERS: There is some confusion, Natalie, over the order of the shootings. It's being reported by local television the shooting began at McDonald's. We're being told that the shooting began at the nearby apartment building and then onto McDonald's. That's a part of the story that has yet to be cleared up by local police.

ALLEN: We'll continue to follow this breaking news and we'll have other news of this day in just a moment. Stay with us.


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