Monday, August 24, 2009

A Shooting At LA Fitness

A gunman burst into an exercise class at a health club in suburban Pittsburgh on Tuesday night and started spraying bullets. George Sodini (48) killed Elizabeth Gannon (49), Heidi Overmier (46) and Jody Billingsley (38) when he opened fire in a gym before killing himself.

Debi Wozniak, of Dormont, a suburb of Pittsburgh, is a regular at the weekly Latin impact dance exercise class. She was running late Tuesday night and didn't make it, but she said her sister, Joann Gazzam, was in the class.

Gazzam told Wozniak that a man came in through the glass double doors at the exercise room's entrance. He walked to the back of the room near some weights and set down the bag, fumbling with it for a few minutes and came up with what Gazzam said were apparently two guns and began shooting.

Gazzam told Wozniak that several people appeared to be wounded, including the instructor, and that it was apparent that four people were dead and that the gunman had killed himself.

George Sodini, 48, brought four handguns into the LA Fitness gym outside Pittsburgh and used three of them, firing at least 36 times around 8 p.m. Tuesday, Allegheny County Police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said.

Sodini, a member of the gym, was found dead in the aerobics room, lying on top of one of his guns about seven feet from one of the victims.

Authorities believe Sodini targeted the aerobics class, because a schedule was found in his home with that class circled, Moffatt said.

In the note found at the scene in Sodini's gym bag, he complains he had never spent a weekend with a woman, never vacationed with a woman and never lived with a woman, and that he had had limited sexual experiences, Moffatt said.

He makes similar complaints in his online blog, which also documents his growing rage at women for rejecting him and at the world he felt had abandoned him.

Sodini worked as a systems analyst in the finance department of K&L Gates, a law firm with an office in Pittsburgh, since 1999, Mike Rick, a spokesman for the firm, said.

Neighbors described him as reclusive and said he had stopped talking to them in the past few years.

On Tuesday, Sodini visited the gym three times -- the first about 11 a.m., a second time at 7:40 p.m. and a third time at 7:56 p.m., Moffatt said. Members of the gym are required to swipe a card to check in, but do not have to check out, he said. The first 911 call was dispatched at 8:16 p.m.

Three of the four guns found with Sodini were traced back to him, and authorities are in the process of tracing the fourth, Moffatt said. They were two 9 mm semi-automatics, a .45-caliber revolver and a .38 in his pocket. Sodini also had 30-round ammunition clips that were illegal before the assault weapons ban was lifted in 2004, police said.

Police know Sodini made a telephone call at 7:45 p.m., and believe he may have left the gym to make it. Authorities are attempting to locate the person he contacted, Moffatt said.

Sodini did not mention killing himself in the note found at the scene, which was mostly typed with handwritten notations, but did mention it in a handwritten note found at his home, Moffatt said.

Sodini kept a blog which has now been removed. You can read its contents here.

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