A woman, 33-year-old Rhondesia Belton, was pronounced dead at a local hospital, police said early Monday morning. The second victim, identified only as a 35-year-old woman, died of her injuries later Monday.
Another 35-year-old woman remained in critical condition Monday night, police said.
Police initially said officers had responded to a report of shots fired at the Main Street Armory shortly after the concert ended around 1 p.m. 11 p.m., and that “the injuries appear to be the result of a large crowd pushing for the exits following reports of individuals hearing what they believed to be gunshots.
Later Monday morning, however, the Rochester Police Department said that “there are some reports that gunshots were heard, causing the crowd to panic, but that has not been confirmed.”
Police said they are still investigating the possible cause of the crowd surge, “including the crowd, shots fired, pepper spray and more.”
Another seven people were taken in private vehicles to area hospitals with non-life threatening injuries, police said.
Alec Richardson of CBS Rochester affiliate WROC-TV tweeted that he “saw a firefighter performing CPR, presumably on a victim at the scene.”
About an hour after the incident, GloRilla, a Grammy-nominated rapper from Memphis, tweeted that she had just heard what happened and that she was “praying that everyone was OK.”
After hearing of the second death, she tweeted that she was “devastated and heartbroken by the tragic deaths that happened after Sunday’s show. My fans mean the world to me and are praying for their families and for a speedy recovery for all affected.” ”
Mayor Malik Evans called the fatal stampede “totally unacceptable” and promised a thorough investigation into whether venue operators had the necessary safety measures in place for a large crowd.
“We will hold people accountable for what happened last night, period,” Evans said, though he cautioned that it was too early in the investigation to assign blame. “I intend to get to the bottom of this.”
The Armory hosted sporting events throughout the 20th century before being shut down for several years from the late 1990s, partly because it lacked a fire extinguisher system at the time.
It reopened after extensive renovations and began hosting concerts and other events in 2005. Smith said its main arena is designed to have a capacity of about 5,000 people, and the city’s fire marshal will work with police to determine whether that capacity was exceeded on Sunday.
City officials said the facility underwent a physical fire safety inspection in December and was in compliance with fire codes.
The venue’s next scheduled show, a Saturday performance by rapper A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, has been cancelled.
“If you go to a concert, you don’t expect to be trampled,” Evans said. “Your loved ones expect you to come home and talk about the experience you had at the big concert.”