Authorities say incident maybe linked to domestic dispute

Last updated: August 25. 2013 11:29PM - 9622 Views
JON O’CONNELL joconnell@timesleader.com

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WILKES-BARRE — Two children wounded Saturday in a shooting at Sherman Hills Apartments are in critical condition, said Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis.

A 2-year-old girl is considered to be in critical condition and a 5-year-old girl is considered to be in critical-stable condition. They are being treated at Geisinger-Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville.

An eyewitness at the scene of the shooting on Saturday said it appeared one girl was wounded in the neck and the other in the hip or abdomen area around 1:30 p.m. behind building 304 in the complex.

Critical-stable condition means the older girl is doing a bit better than the younger than the younger one, Salavantis said. The district attorney said she could not say anything about the ongoing investigation for fear of jeopardizing the effort.

“This case is very important to me,” Salavantis said. “My thoughts and prayers are with the family right now. I’m very grateful that both children are still alive.”

She said it appeared both children had been living or staying at the apartment where the incident occurred.

Search warrants for the apartment unit in question were filed, and state police, a county detective and city police were investigating. Initial evidence suggests the shooting resulted from a domestic dispute and it appears the general public is not in any danger, according to a city press release.

Two state police detectives entered Wilkes-Barre City Police headquarters around 3 p.m. Sunday with several brown paper evidence bags. They said they had been at the scene sometime during the day, but were not authorized to give comment.

They could not confirm the bags were from Sherman Hills.

Police took at least five people into custody a few hours after the incident Saturday, but no charges have been filed, according to a press release from a city spokeswoman Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday, the mood was somber at Sherman Hills.

Yellow caution tape blocked off the area to the side of building 304. Residents were scattered around, taking in the warm Sunday afternoon. But conversations all seemed to revolve around what happened the day before.

Linda Stahl, who lives in the Heights section of Wilkes-Barre, sat with a friend at a picnic table used 24 hours earlier as a makeshift police rendezvous point after reports of the shooting came in. Stahl and her friend reveled in the quiet hanging over the neighborhood.

Sunday was the first day in a week they had not heard gunfire, Stahl said, explaining from the Sunday before and every day until Saturday, she heard gunshots.

Other neighbors agreed that gunshots are nearly an everyday sound.

“I just hope something gets done about it,” Stahl said. “Maybe it’s gonna stop if they close it down for six months,” she said referring to the city’s recently passed ordinance that states rental units can be closed down for as much time in the wake of illegal activity.

At a meeting Thursday, when City Council members unanimously approved the ordinance, council Chairman Bill Barrett said the same rule applies to any landlord, but city solicitor William E. Vinsko Jr. said what to do about Sherman Hills specifically would have to be worked out among the council.

The new city ordinance is set to take effect Sept. 1.

On Saturday, city Mayor Tom Leighton expressed determintion to bring justice in the latest case of violence connected to the troubled housing complex.

“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.”

Dantae Coleman, who was visiting friends near the complex, said on Sunday that she has a baby of her own and couldn’t bear the thought if that happened to her own child.

“At the end of the day, they’re just babies,” Coleman said. “They should be able to watch TV and go out onto their patio without worrying about getting shot.”

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