NORTH VERSAILLES, Pa. — One teenager died and another was hurt after a shooting Saturday night at the opening night of Haunted Hills Hayride along Route 48 in North Versailles.
Steven Eason, 15, of Wilmerding, died after he was shot in the chest and stomach during the shooting, which happened shortly before 8:30 p.m., police said. The second teenager, who is also 15 years old, was shot in the shoulder and was last listed in stable condition.
Both teenagers were taken to hospitals by paramedics who were at the Haunted Hills Hayride at the time of the shooting.
Police said Eason, a student at Central Catholic High School, went to the attraction with a group of friends. While there, the group saw the second victim, whom they knew casually, get into an argument with the shooter and went to help. That’s when the shooter pulled out a gun and fired three times, hitting Eason and the other teenager.
“The Central Catholic community is deeply saddened by this tragic loss. Steven was a dedicated student, a talented member of the track team and a blessing to have at Central Catholic. He will be deeply missed by all of us at Central Catholic and we offer our condolences and prayers to his family and friends. Our counseling team as well as alumni who are trained in grief counseling are here to provide support for the family and the Central Catholic community,” Brother Tony Baginski, Central Catholic’s principal, said in a statement.
The second teenager was a student at Penn Hills High School, according to a post on the district’s Facebook page.
Grief counselors at both schools are available for students. Parents are encouraged to have their teens reach out if they need support.
“My friends were at the hayride. They called and said, ‘Steve’s gone. Steve’s gone.’ Called my grandma. She was crying, I was crying and throwing up. Couldn’t even sleep,” Eason’s friend Damon Johnson said, who has known him since sixth grade. “He was curious. He was definitely, definitely, definitely a good kid. He was like a younger brother to me. Even though we were in the same grade because I knew him for so long.”
The shooter, who has not been identified, took off and has yet to be found, police said. He is described as black, between 5 feet, 9 inches and 6 feet tall, and having a slender build. He is believed to be between the ages of 15 and 17.
Police said the shooting happened behind the ticket booth, near the entrance to get on the hayride, and there were an estimated 50 to 100 people in the immediate area when the shots were fired.
Officers said the crowded area broke out into chaos when the shots rang out, with people running in all directions.
“When the shooting occurred, half the people ran toward the parking lot, half ran toward the trail. It was chaotic, but the staff tried to get people out of the area,” Lt. Venerando Costa, of the Allegheny County Police Department, said. “I think it’s a terrible shame. You come to an area to have fun. It’s innocent people around. Anyone could have gotten hurt.”
The Haunted Hills Hayride has been in the community for 22 years.
It recently posted on social media that it gives a portion of its proceeds to the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and two local animal rescue organizations.
The attraction posted on Facebook Monday addressing the situation.
“On behalf of the entire Haunted Hills Hayride staff, our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims associated with the senseless act of violence that occurred at our facility on September 11, 2021. It is certainly difficult to hear, let alone experience, the reality of the loss of a loved one.
We would like to thank the North Versailles Volunteer Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services personnel for their immediate response to the call for help as they were located at our site at the time.
The North Versailles Township Police, Detectives from the Allegheny County Police Department, and other responding agencies did an excellent job in responding to and investigating this case.
The safety of all persons associated with our family fun oriented event has always been a priority since we started 22 years ago. After meeting with members of our event staff and with an outpouring of support from the community and our fan base, it has been determined that we cannot let an isolated bad act stop the good of what the Haunted Hills Hayride provides.
Accordingly, we will resume our scheduled dates of operation as stated online.
Thank you for your continued support.”
Anyone with information about the shooter, saw the shooting or has cellphone video from that time is asked to call the Allegheny County Police Homicide Unit through its tip line at 1-833-255-8477.