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August 6, 2009

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Four dead in Pittsburgh gym shooting

AN armed man strolled to the back of an exercise class at a health club in suburban Pittsburgh on Tuesday night and then pulled out at least two guns and fired 52 shots, killing three women and himself, and injuring at least nine other women, US authorities said.

Two women and the man believed to be the shooter died at the scene and another woman died on the way to a hospital, Allegheny County police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said early yesterday.

Moffatt told a news conference the gunman was a member of the health club and had identification but that police needed to check fingerprints and speak to his family to confirm his identity.

He said police were not sure who the target of the shooting was but that the gunman went into the health club planning to shoot several people - he fired his gun "indiscriminately," Moffatt said - and did not say anything before unleashing a burst of bullets.

"He walked right into the room where the shootings occurred as if he knew exactly where he was going," Moffatt said.

The violence erupted at the LA Fitness Center in Bridgeville, a community of about 5,000 not far from downtown Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh International Airport.

Five victims arrived in critical condition at UPMC Mercy Hospital, and two women were listed in fair condition at Allegheny General Hospital, hospital officials said. Two female victims were in stable condition at St Clair Hospital, spokesman Rich Sieber said.

Joann Gazzam, who was taking part in the weekly "Latin Impact" dance aerobics class, saw the gunman walk to the back of the room near some weights, set down a bag and fumble with it for a few minutes before coming up with what appeared to be two guns and opening fire, according to her sister, Debi Wozniak.

Gazzam told Wozniak that the instructor was among those who appeared to have been shot, and that the gunman had killed himself.

"She told me, 'Debi, I seen everything. Oh, my God, I seen everything. I seen him pull out the guns'," said Wozniak, who usually attends the class but didn't make it on Tuesday.

Moffatt said police recovered at least two guns from the scene and that a note was found in the shooter's duffel bag, but he would not say whether the shooter had written it. He would not discuss a possible motive.


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