WILKES-BARRE — Investigators are searching for a gunman who shot two people early Friday morning on a Wilkes-Barre street, leaving one in critical condition at a hospital.
Gunfire erupted just before 1 a.m. in the area of 132 S. Welles St. in Boulevard Townhomes, a low-income apartment complex operated by the Wilkes-Barre Housing Authority.
One man suffered a gunshot wound to his head, and another sustained a gunshot injury to his hip. Both were transported to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township.
Police did not release the names of the two victims, but an officer said drug paraphernalia and several shell casings were recovered near the scene.
After reviewing surveillance video from Hawkeye cameras near the townhomes, county detectives and city police identified a person of interest in the shootings, Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie J. Salavantis said.
The subject, identified as Jordan Stevens, 27, is believed to frequent the Brownsville area of Brooklyn, New York City.
Stevens is described as a light-skinned black male, about 5 feet, 10 inches tall and about 170 pounds with short black hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a light-colored T-shirt and shorts with black or dark-colored footwear. Stevens has several tattoos — one of the grim reaper on his right arm from elbow to wrist and another of the initials “J.T.” on his right wrist.
Boulevard Townhomes surveillance footage shows at approximately 12:45 a.m., three young males were returning to the complex. Once the males walked by, the shooter — without provocation — turned, drew a firearm and fired, she said. One of the victims was critically wounded, Salavantis said.
A preliminary investigation did not reveal a motive for the shooting, she said.
Stevens is wanted by the Pennsylvania Department of Parole and is believed to be armed and dangerous. He should not be approached, authorities said. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Wilkes-Barre City Police Department at 570-208-4200 or Luzerne County 911.
Police at about 11 a.m. issued a release on the department’s Facebook page indicating the case was a homicide, as one of the victims died at about 9 a.m. at Geisinger. But Salavantis and county Acting Coroner William Lisman said the man did not die, despite the police department’s report.
Lisman said the man was in “grave” condition but could not provide details, as the coroner’s office only becomes involved in a death.
The man was still alive late Friday night, Salavantis said.
Wilkes-Barre Chief of Police Gerard Dessoye described what investigators believe happened: “We had three individuals walking through (Boulevard Townhomes) and they were confronted by an individual that they described as being a black male, unknown Hispanic or not. As they walked past the individual, he fired at the three individuals. Two of them were struck, one in the head, one in the body and one was not.”
A county detective and two assistant district attorneys were assigned to assist city police detectives in the investigation, Salavantis said.
City police and state police troopers with the Forensic Services Unit concentrated their search between two apartment buildings and stairs that lead from South Welles Street to Midland Court. A large pool of dry blood was splattered on grass and a sidewalk near the top of the stairs.
“It’s very frustrating, but I mean unfortunately it’s a sign of the times,” Dessoye said. “I think all the larger cities we’re seeing, Philadelphia, New York, Hazleton, pick a major city and we’re just seeing it — that people are settling things through violence, through extreme violence, not physical violence. They’re actually shooting and stabbing each other now just to settle oftentimes a minor beef.”
Dessoye continued: “Everybody wants to think that it’s a big significant drug cartel problem. Oftentimes these things come back to just personal beefs between individuals. And for whatever reason society or that segment of society has taken to gun violence to solve their problems.”
South Welles Street seemingly returned to normal when investigators left the scene at about 5 a.m. At about 10:30 a.m., people walked through the scene as other tenants sat in lawn chairs.
Doris Branch, who resides on South Welles Street, said she was awakened by at least three gunshots. “I heard ‘bam, bam, bam,’ and I came running out and saw all this blood and two people on the ground,” Branch said.
Seven people when approached by a reporter Friday morning said they don’t live in the apartment complex; they all wore pajamas and congregated near the front of one of the apartments. Three vehicles parked in front of the apartment buildings along South Welles Street had out-of-state license plates.
Times Leader staff writer Steve Mocarsky contributed to this story.