CHESTER, Pa. — Shots rang out in a suburban Philadelphia social hall where a teenage party was being held, killing two people and sending eight others to hospitals, authorities said Saturday.
Police in Chester, where a state of emergency was declared last summer because of crime concerns, said a suspect was taken into custody after officers were called to the Minaret Temple No. 174 around 11:30 p.m. Friday and found “numerous victims.”
Police said nine people were transported to Crozer Chester Medical Center, where a spokesman said one died soon afterward and another died Saturday afternoon. Four other victims remained in stable condition, and three had been discharged, the spokesman said. A 10th person was treated at Taylor Hospital and was released.
The social hall had been rented for a party, and many teenagers were present when the shots were fired, police said. Detectives were investigating the cause of the shooting and declined to release further information. A man answering the phone at the hall said he had come in to see the condition of the building but declined to comment further.
The Delaware County Daily Times newspaper said neighbors and community leaders planned a candlelight vigil at the scene Saturday night.
Mayor Wendell Butler told The Associated Press that he was disheartened to arrive at the scene after the shooting and find 13-year-olds from Philadelphia who had come for the party.
“I asked one of them, ‘How did you know about this?’ He said, ‘It was on Facebook,’” Butler said. “I said, ‘Does your mother know where you are?’ It’s like 11 o’clock at night. He tells me she doesn’t care. And I said, ‘Oh, my goodness. I guess that’s part of the problem.’”
Last summer, Butler declared a state of emergency and a 9 p.m. curfew was imposed in problem areas of the city, which has nearly 40,000 residents, after a rash of shootings left four people dead in eight days. The city, about 15 miles south of Philadelphia, ended up with two dozen homicides last year, a 60 percent increase over the previous year and four short of the all-time high number in 1993.
Police said the illegal drug trade was the source of much of the violence, while others have blamed easy access to firearms. The mayor has said such shootings are often retaliation for other violence.
Butler said in his State of the City address at the end of last month that the state of emergency and an anti-violence campaign helped stem the bloodshed and prompted an increase in residents providing information to police. He touted a decrease in crime this year and a pilot project to install a new set of surveillance cameras in areas of high crime this summer.