WILKES-BARRE — Two children were injured in a shooting Saturday afternoon at Sherman Hills Apartments.
Law enforcement officials confirmed that the victims were children, but would not speculate on details of the case while the investigation continues, said Mayor Tom Leighton in a written statement.
Wilkes-Barre police responded to a report of a shooter in the complex around 2 p.m. They cordoned off the area around building 304 and focused the investigation around it.
Area resident Jude Kotch said he was nearby when he heard the shots. He immediately went toward the sound. It took him about 60 seconds to reach the scene, where he saw two young girls lying in the grass. The were covered in blood, he said.
Police were already on the scene. Kotch surmised they had been in the area for something unrelated. He helped the officers carry the girls near the road, he said, where they met medical personnel. The girls were still breathing when medics put them into the ambulance, Kotch said.
Soon after, Luzerne County 911 dispatchers issued an all-points bulletin describing a maroon-colored minivan and said the vehicle might be connected to the shooting. The dispatch indicated three black males considered armed and dangerous were in the van. City police overtook the suspect van near Mayflower Crossings apartments along South Empire Street. Two women and three men were taken in handcuffs to police headquarters around 5:30 p.m. Police would not confirm if charges were filed..
Leighton issued a statement in the afternoon: “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.”
One resident of the building who asked not to be identified said he’s heard gunshots at night during the past few days. He heard shots Saturday afternoon and walked outside to see the two children lying on the ground.
A Sherman Hills manager was on the scene, but she was not available to comment.
Kotch said gunfire is commonplace in Sherman Hills. He volunteers at the Wyoming Valley Rescue Mission, which is next door to building 304, and said on July 30 a bullet passed through two walls before stopping in a third. No one was injured, Kotch said.
State police, city police and the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office are collaborating on the investigation, Leighton said.
“Those who committed this heinous and despicable act will be brought to justice,” he said. “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.”
“(Law enforcement) will continue to aggressively pursue the people responsible for (Saturday’s) crime,” his statement said. “I thank them for their continued efforts. All of our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of the victims. We hope and pray that these children will survive.”