Two killed in stampede after Rochester concert
By Edgar Sandoval
A stampede spurred by rumors of gunfire at a crowded arena Sunday killed two people and left a third in critical condition after a show by Grammy-nominated rapper GloRilla in Rochester, New York, police said.
The stampede began after a performance by GlorRilla, the stage name of the Memphis, Tennessee-based rap artist Gloria Hallelujah Woods, just after 11 p.m. at the Main Street Armory, Rochester Police Chief David Smith said in a news conference Monday.
“There are some reports that shots were heard, causing the crowd to panic,” said Smith, adding that investigators had found no evidence of gunfire.
“We are hearing many reports of potential causes, including crowd size, shots fired, pepper spray and more,” the Police Department said in a statement. “Preliminary reports from people at the scene indicate that these injuries were caused from being trampled. We do not have any evidence of gunshots being fired or anyone being shot or stabbed.”
Police identified one of the people who died as Rhondesia Belton, 33, but did not release the name of the second victim Monday night.
Police said one woman remained in critical condition Monday after she was taken to the hospital with significant injuries Sunday night. An additional seven people went to local hospitals Sunday night with non-life-threatening injuries, which Smith said appeared to have been caused by trampling.
On Monday, a local Rochester news station, WHEC-TV, interviewed concertgoers who survived the stampede. They returned to the arena to look for personal belongings they had lost in the chaos, include earrings, keys and cellphones.
One concertgoer, Ikea Hayes, recounted “watching the life flash before my eyes” as she grappled with a woman pinned onto the ground beside her under the crush of other concertgoers. She said they had both been knocked to the ground near the arena entrance.
Hayes said she and another woman were “were, like, climbing up on each other.” She added that she had been on the ground praying and telling herself: “You got to get up. You got to move. If you stay here, they’re going to keep running you over.”
Rochester Mayor Malik Evans said at Monday’s news conference that the episode was a “tragedy of epic proportions.” He said the city would begin an investigation into the stampede to determine whether the operators of the arena had followed required safety measures.
“When you go to a concert, you do not expect to be trampled,” he said. “Your loved ones expect you to be able to come home.”
The stampede in Rochester called to mind a similar tragedy in 2021 when a crowd surge at the Astroworld Festival in Houston killed 10 people and injured scores more, leading to a string of lawsuits and a congressional investigation.
GloRilla, whose song “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)” was nominated for best rap performance at the Grammy Awards last month, expressed condolences on Twitter at 12:11 a.m. Monday.
“I’m just now hearing about what happened,” she wrote. “Praying everybody is ok.”