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UPDATED: Teen altercation leads to shooting at Kennywood, despite chaperone policy and security screening

by Samantha Davis-Friedman

A shooting at Kennywood amusement park in the Pittsburgh suburb of West Mifflin, Penn. occurred during the opening night of Phantom Fall Fest, resulting in three guests being shot and others injured.

The Musik Express ride at Kennywood
Photo by Kennywood

According to a statement from the Allegheny County Police Department, shots were fired at about 10:49 p.m. on Sept. 24, 2022, following what witnesses described as “an altercation” between two groups of teen males in front of the Musik Express ride. A 15-year-old boy and a 39-year-old man were shot in the leg and were treated at local hospitals. A second 15-year-old boy was grazed by a bullet in his leg and was also treated. Both boys are in stable condition, and the man was released from the hospital.

A local police spokesman said police found a handgun near the scene of the shootings, but the shooter (described as a male wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and a dark colored Covid mask) is still not in custody.

In March, we reported that Kennywood was opening its 2022 season with an expedited security screening process, which included Evolv Express. This touchless system (similar to the one used at Walt Disney World and many other theme parks) allows guests and their belongings to be inspected as they walk through security detectors without removing items from their pockets. Police say they don’t know how the shooter got his weapon through security.

We received the following statement from Evolv:

We share concern for the victims of the shooting that took place at Kennywood over the weekend as well as all the individuals, families and children who have been impacted by the trauma surrounding this incident. We are deeply committed to our mission of making places where people gather safer. We have been in contact with our customer to offer our assistance and support and note that the facts are still emerging. Metal detectors and advanced weapons detection screening technology are only one part of a multi-layered approach to security, which also includes the people and processes involved in securing a venue.

Five county police officers, two West Mifflin officers, and Kennywood’s in-house security were patrolling the park Saturday night. They assisted the shooting victims and helped escort guests out of the park; however, several “trampling injuries” were reported as crowds rushed for exits when word spread about the gunfire.

At about 12:30 a.m. on Sept. 25, Kennywood Communication Manager Tasha Pokrzywa released a statement that all guests had exited and the park was closed for the night.

Today, Kennywood released this statement:

We are greatly saddened by the violence that occurred last night. Our thoughts are with those who were injured as a result of the incident, as well as all guests and team members affected by what happened. We have made services available for team members in need of support at this time. We are closely collaborating with police as they investigate. Our entry security protocols include a state of the art weapons detection system put into place at the start of this season, video scanning, and bag checks. We regularly supplement our park security staff with officers from the Allegheny County Police Department and West Mifflin Police Department, who were contracted to support our teams during operating hours, including Saturday evening. We will continue to cooperate with authorities throughout their investigation. The park is closed Sunday, September 25. We will reopen as scheduled on Friday evening, September 30, and will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.

General Manager Mark Pauls

In July, Knott’s Berry Farm in Orange County, Calif., implemented a chaperone policy following  “unruly behavior and altercations involving a number of teenagers.” Last year, Kennywood announced a similar policy that requires anyone under the age of 17 to be accompanied by an adult 21+ after 4 p.m. The Kennywood website states they “expect” guests under 18 who enter before 4 p.m. to be joined by a chaperone after 4 p.m., but there does not seem to be any system in place to enforce that expectation.

Anyone with any information regarding the shooting is being asked to contact the Allegheny County Police Department at 1-833-ALL-TIPS (1-833-255-8477); callers can remain anonymous. The department can also be reached via social media.

UPDATED 9/28/22:

Kennywood has announced that they will implement the following security enhancements when the park opens for Phantom Fest on Sept. 30, 2022:

Kennywood security enhancements

Along with the announcement about enhanced security, the park posted the following statement on its website:

The Kennywood team keeps those injured Saturday in our thoughts. As we prepare to open this weekend, please know we are fully committed to enhancing our operations to allow guests to enjoy a safe, fun experience. We will continue consulting with law enforcement on additional safety measures to implement. We thank the Allegheny County and West Mifflin Police Departments, our Team Members, and our Guests for the continued support. 

Updates regarding the shooting:

  • Kennywood officials said the park’s metal detectors were working the night of the shooting.
  • Detectives said they haven’t found anything to confirm that any of the victims were directly involved in the altercation that took place before the shooting.
  • Detectives are still reviewing video evidence and following up on tip line calls.
  • Allegheny County police said they’re still looking for the suspect.

Click here for details about the park’s updated safety and security policies.

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