Investigators are trying to determine whether a deadly crush of concertgoers in Rochester, New York, could have been prevented.
Two people were killed and at least eight others injured as a result of the chaos Sunday night, Rochester police said. Those killed were Brandy Miller, 35, and Rhondesia Belton, 33, police said.
Police initially responded to a report of shots fired around 11:05 p.m. inside the Main Street Armory event venue.
Officers found people injured inside – but no evidence of a shooting, police said.
“Upon further investigation … none of the injuries sustained to any of the victims were consistent with a person being shot,” Rochester police Lt. Nicholas Adams said.
“The injuries appear to be as a result of a large crowd pushing towards the exits following accounts of individuals hearing what they believed to be gunshots.”
Atiya Holley was leaving the concert with her sister when she got caught in the deadly stampede, she said. She heard what sounded like muffled gunshots outside the venue.
“It sounded like they were shooting outside, so everyone started running back in,” Holley said. “Then when everyone tried to exit again, it got crazy.”
People started running toward the main and emergency exits, Holley said.
“I didn’t know where to go, so I went through an emergency exit on the side of the venue. That’s when I was pushed down the stairs and my sister had to pick me up from the ground,” Holley said. “We just kept running to the parking lot after that.”
It’s “too early to say what precipitated the event,” Rochester Mayor Malik Evans said Monday.
“You do not expect to be trampled,” at a concert, he said, adding the tragedy “breaks my heart” and is “totally unacceptable.”
The tragedy follows a series of deadly crowd surges at entertainment events. In 2021, eight people died at the Astroworld music festival in Houston. Last fall, 158 people were killed in a crush of people during Halloween festivities in a nightlife district of Seoul, South Korea.
Rochester police are interviewing concertgoers and security agents, Police Chief David Smith said.
Police responded quickly to the crowd crush because eight Rochester officers had been posted Sunday outside the building, the city said Monday in a statement. Those officers were there at the request of the venue, which paid for their services.
The Main Street Armory venue, with a 5,000-person maximum capacity, is “current and compliant” with all fire codes, the city statement said.
Investigators now are working with fire marshals to help determine the number of concertgoers in relation to the venue’s capacity. The investigation is in its early stages, and police are asking anyone with video of what happened to come forward, Smith said.
The venue had two previous city code violations: one involving an unapproved business operation at the rear of the property where activity has ceased and an unapproved “dwelling unit” that the city could not prove was occupied, the city statement said.
Rapper GloRilla, who was performing at the venue Sunday night, offered prayers to those affected.
“I’m just now hearing about what happened … praying everybody is ok,” she tweeted.
CNN’s Rebekah Riess, Lechelle Benken and Laura Dolan contributed to this report.