Lackawanna police are looking for the gunman who opened fire early Sunday at a reported block party, killing one man and critically injuring another.
Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski released a statement on the shootings, which occurred shortly after midnight.
Police were called to Olin Lane, where they received reports of gunfire, and found the two male victims and about 200 people at a scene that was described as “evolving” and “chaotic,” according to the statement.
Residents at the Baker Homes housing project said a block party was in progress when the shootings occurred.
“This was not a riot. It was kids having fun until an outside entity came in with guns and turned it into a tragic evening. We don’t carry guns in Lackawanna,” said Justyn Hardwick, who identified himself as a relative of both victims.
According to the mayor’s statement, Lackawanna police will withhold the names of the victims until an arrest is made.
Hardwick, who grew up in the projects and returned to the area a year ago after living out of state for 15 years, described the dead man as being either in his late 20s or early 30s. The wounded victim was in his 40s, according to Hardwick and his brother, Clifton Myles Sr., both of whom spoke to The News, as did other unidentified neighbors late Sunday afternoon.
Neighbors described Baker Homes, which is run by the Lackawanna Municipal Housing Authority, as a close-knit community. They said residents of all ages were outside when the block party started at about 11 p.m. Saturday, following a basketball tournament that was held at a nearby playground.
“The party wasn’t going on 40 minutes when the shooting started,” said one neighbor.
A motive for the shooting was unknown Sunday. However, neighbors said the gunman is not a resident of Baker Homes.
“Somebody brought a gun to a peaceful party. We don’t settle problems with guns here,” said Myles, who recalled that the last shooting in the housing development was more than a decade ago.
Myles said he was in his apartment asleep when his wife told him about the shooting. When he ventured outside, he found the younger shooting victim, whom Myles identified as a cousin, dying on the lawn in front of his doorstep. He identified the man only by his first name, Richie.
“By the time I got to him, he was still gurgling,” said Myles. “He was trying to make it to his mother’s house, and he collapsed and died in my front yard.”
Hardwick, Myles’ brother, said he was sitting on the steps outside his apartment when he learned of the shootings. The wounded victim, according to both men, was just outside his apartment unit when he was shot and retreated inside afterward. He was identified only as Damien.
“I saw my cousin lying up on the kitchen floor,” said Hardwick, who is an associate pastor at First Baptist Church, 320 Ingham Ave.
“I told the congregation today that the death angel and Jesus were in the same place, because one was taken and one was saved,” Hardwick said.
“They were good people. They didn’t bother anyone,” added Myles.
Neighbors also complained about what they called slow response time from Rural Metro.
The younger man, who was fatally shot, died at the scene. The critically wounded victim was transported to Erie County Medical Center. No further information was provided on his condition.
According to the mayor, Lackawanna police requested assistance from nearby law enforcement agencies because of the large number of people at the scene.
Anyone with information is being asked to call the Lackawanna Detective Bureau at 827-6410 or 827-6411.