|DA John Morganelli|
Puerto Rican Beneficial Society shooting
Yolanda Morales, died early Saturday morning during a hail of gunfire, down the street from the Puerto Rican Beneficial Society. Five others are hospitalized. Six people were involved in a shooting incident that started over what Morganelli calls an "incidental, minor" contact. "It spilled over into the streets, and obviously went way too far," stated the prosecutor. He has no evidence that drugs were involved.
The argument that led to the shooting started inside the Puerto Rican Beneficial Society, a club located at 205 E. Third Street. Morganelli explained that the club had an "open night" that evening. The six people involved in the shooting, four from the Easton area and two from Allentown, were not members of the club. These Easton and Allentown factions are responsible for the thirty-bullet fusillade that occurred.
The club has a metal detector and secuirity personnel, so Morganelli theorizes that the guns were retrieved outside, after the two factions had left.
Yolanda Morales, who was with the four-person group from Easton, actually ran towards the gunfire when the shooting started. There were three shooters. At this point, it is believes that one of the Easton faction picked up a gun, possible in defense of himself or others. Except for Morales, the other participants were male.
Two weapons have been retrieved, a .45 and a .40. One was found by police in the street. The other was picked up and brought inside the club, where it was later found by police.
It is believed there were three shooters, one of whom is cooperating with police. According to Morganelli, the two individuals from Allentown have a criminal history.
According to Morganelli, police are still interviewing witnesses, but he expects to be able to make arrests by the end of the week. "We're not there 100%," he cautioned, noting that they only get one chance and have to be right when they charge.
One of the non-shooters wounded in this melee, according to Morganelli, might be paralyzed.
Morganelli has no reason to believe that the Puerto Rican Beneficial Society is a nuisance bar. "It's not on my radar," he stated, noting that he has moved swiftly to close bars he considers troublesome. He added that officials at the club have been cooperative and have provided surveillance video. "It's been there for fifty years," he added. "I get more complaints about Starters," he said, referring to sports bar on Bethlehem's south side.
At this point, it is undetermined whether the guns used were legally purchased or whether the shooters had licenses to carry firearms. "It's very rare that a criminal gets a license to carry," noted the prosecutor.
Wyandotte Street shooting
A few hours after the shooting at the Puerto Rican Beneficial Club, Shelton Powell opened fire on three persons sitting on a porch along Wyandotte Street. According to Morganelli, this incident is totally unrelated.
On Sunday evening, a NYC man was shot to death on an Easton south side sidewalk, giving that City its fifth murder this year. Police in that matter have much less to go on, according to Morganelli. But he believes it is likely driug-related. "A lot of this, in Easton especially, is drug-related," he stated.
Are Citizens Safe?
Morganelli wants citizens to know that they are safe, whether in Easton or Bethlehem, before midnight. After that, there's what he calls "the night people." He described a culture of young males who "have guns and aren't afraid to use them." Witnesses themselves are "street people" who refuse to cooperate and must be brought before a grand jury.
"When it gets past midnight, it's not a good idea to be walking anywhere," the DA cautions.