When the gunfire ended, two bullets were lodged in the walls of the Loews at the Waterfront theater in West Homestead and Shelton L. Flowers, 30, of Wilkinsburg, lay mortally wounded near banks of arcade games by the rear entrance.John Heller, Post-Gazette
Loews at The Waterfront in West Homestead.
Click photo for larger image.
A 150-foot blood trail on the theater's floor stretched from where police believe Mr. Flowers was shot, near the theater's elevator, to where he collapsed.
Mr. Flowers died at 11:44 p.m. Wednesday at UPMC Presbyterian, less than an hour after being shot in the thigh. The bullet sliced through his femoral artery.
Mr. Flowers and a female companion had attended the 9 p.m. showing of the controversial gangster rap film "Get Rich or Die Tryin,' " starring rapper 50 Cent. Police said the movie had just let out when the incident occurred just after at 11 p.m.
According to police, the shooting followed a confrontation in the bathroom between Mr. Flowers and one of a group of up to four men. Police believe the men all knew each other.
The argument between Mr. Flowers and one man quickly spilled out into the main part of the theater by the concession stand.
Witnesses told police they saw at least two people brandishing handguns -- presumably Mr. Flowers and his killer. At least four shots were fired, and Mr. Flowers was hit twice. Patrons ran or hit the floor in the chaotic scene.
Amid the pandemonium, Charlie Rozzo, an off-duty officer working security, ran toward the lobby from a vestibule at the theater's west entrance. Mr. Rozzo was alerted by patrons running from the theater and yelling about a shooting.
As he ran toward the scene, he heard two shots fired, followed by a third.
He drew his weapon when he saw a shooting victim lying on the floor near the arcade games, and then aimed his gun at a group of three or four men and a woman who were running toward him. He detained them until other officers arrived.
Allegheny County police said the shooting suspect was not among the three men Officer Rozzo detained. They speculate that he ran out the front entrance during the commotion.
A handgun and two magazines filled with ammunition that police believe belonged to Mr. Flowers were found in the theater.
Police said they had no information that the shooting had any connection to the movie. However, the theater decided to not show the film yesterday at all.
"Were they patrons? Yeah, we believe they were. But as far as, did the movie influence them in any way, we can't say that," West Homestead police Chief Christopher Deasy said yesterday. "We're treating this as a random incident."
Some moviegoers reacted with shock at the shooting, while others were unfazed, chalking it up to a sign of the times or a one-time incident.
"In Loews' theater, I was very surprised," said Bernadette Pordash, 22, of Monongahela, yesterday. Near where she stood at the theater's rear entrance, police tape from the night before still lay inside a trash can.
Ms. Pordash was watching the war movie "Jarhead" Wednesday when the film abruptly stopped, the lights came on, and a police officer ordered patrons to leave through the emergency exit.
A man entered the theater and said someone had been shot. Ms. Pordash said she did not hear anything unusual because of the shooting and explosions in the movie she was watching.
Chief Deasy moved quickly to address safety concerns. He met with the theater's general manager Wednesday night after the shooting and arranged to increase security.
Loews has hired two West Homestead officers to moonlight at the theater in uniform Friday through Sunday nights from 6 p.m. to midnight. Chief Deasy said that would be increased to four officers Wednesday through Sunday starting tonight.
"We're hoping with the four officers, just their presence alone will speed the process of recovery in the West Homestead area," Chief Deasy said.
The theater had hired Officer Rozzo to work security at the theater Wednesday for the sold-out debut of the rap movie.
Investigators planned yesterday to meet with Loews representatives to view videotape from the theater. Meanwhile, they asked for the public's help and urged anyone with information about Mr. Flowers' companion to come forward.
Although Mr. Flowers had an address in Wilkinsburg, police believe he spent time in Rankin, where he had tangled with the law two years ago. He was awaiting trial next March on gun charges, resisting arrest, possession of marijuana, reckless endangerment and child endangerment.
Jonathan D. Silver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1962. Gabrielle Banks contributed to this report.