Web page describes fitness center gunman as unhappy loner

By Calvin Palmer

Police today identified the gunman who walked into a Pittsburgh fitness center and opened fire, killing three women before turning the gun on himself.

George Sodini, 48, of Scott Township, was described by neighbors as anti-social.

He apparently kept a Web page where he wrote about his rejection by women and charted his life as an unhappy loner. It listed the date of his death – August 4, 2009 – and his status of “never married”.

He also wrote about an earlier plan for violence at the LA Fitness Center in Bridgeville but said that he “chickened out”.

But last night, he walked into the fitness center carrying a duffel bag. He entered a Latin impact dance exercise class, put the bag on the ground, paused for a few moments then took out two guns and started shooting.

Three women were killed and nine people were injured. The dead women were identified as Heidi Overmier, 46, of Carnegie; Elizabeth Gannon, 49, of Pittsburgh; and Jody Billingsley, 38, of Mount Lebanon.

Police say may have fired as many as 52 shots before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide.

“He walked right into the room where the shootings occurred as if he knew exactly where he was going,” Allegheny County police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said. “I think he went in with the idea of doing what he did.”

Moffat said the gunman went into the health club planning to shoot several people — firing “multiple” weapons “indiscriminately” — and didn’t say anything before unleashing a burst of bullets.

He said police officers recovered at least two guns from the scene and a note from the shooter’s duffel bag, but he would not say who wrote it.

“I don’t think anyone could have stopped him,” Moffatt said.

Five of the wounded victims arrived in critical condition at UPMC Mercy Hospital, but three of them were upgraded to serious condition earlier today.

Two women remained in fair condition at another Pittsburgh hospital. One victim was treated and released for a shoulder wound and a woman with a bullet wound to the knee remained in stable condition today.

The 4,610-word Web page, on a domain registered in Sodini’s name, appears to document his plans to commit the shooting, his decision to delay it and the process that led to the eventual carnage at the health club.

Authorities did not immediately confirm that the site belonged to Sodini, but the elaborate nature of the comments so soon after the shootings suggest it is authentic.

“The biggest problem of all is not having relationships or friends, but not being able to achieve and acquire what I desire in those or many other areas,” said an entry dated Sunday. “Everthing [sic] stays the same regardless of the effert [sic] I put in. If I had control over my life then I would be happier. But for about the past 30 years, I have not.”

The Web site’s author wrote of planning the attack since at least November, and had tried to do it when the same Tuesday-night dance aerobics class he targeted met on Jan. 6.

“It is 8:45PM: I chickened out!” he wrote. “I brought the loaded guns, everything. Hell!”

Bridgeville is a suburb of about 5,300 residents and is eight miles southwest of downtown Pittsburgh.

[Based on a report by the Associated Press.]

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