A man was “speeding up” as he plowed into a crowd at a fundraiser for fire victims in eastern Pennsylvania this weekend, killing one person and injuring 17 others, police said, then drove less than two miles to a neighboring county to fatally attack his mother.
Shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday in Berwick, Pa., a Honda Accord plowed into a crowded event outside a bar that was raising money for the families of 10 people killed in a fire in neighboring Nescopeck. Sura Reyes, authorities said Sunday, then drove to Nescopeck, where he hit his mother with a car and bludgeoned her with a hammer. Rosa D. Reyes, 56, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to an autopsy report from the Luzerne County Coroner’s Office.
“This is a complete tragedy in a community where there’s already been tragedy,” state trooper Anthony Petroski said at a news conference. “We are going to do our job to the best of our abilities to conduct a thorough investigation not only for the families but for the community members.”
On Saturday, Sura Reyes and his mother had gotten into an argument in Nescopeck, according to a criminal complaint. He was “extremely frustrated” while driving after he left his residence, the police document said, telling investigators that he was tired of fighting with her.
Sura Reyes saw people gathered in the parking lot for the fundraiser and drove past them, then turned back “to drive through the crowd of people,” according to the document.
About 75 people, including small children, were in the parking lot, police said.
“I didn’t ram ’em, I just ran them over,” Sura Reyes said during his interview with investigators.
Law enforcement officers arrived at the fundraiser to find several people injured and one dead.
Rebecca Reese was killed at the fundraiser, according to a police criminal complaint. Authorities have not named the people injured. Geisinger Medical Center had treated 15 patients across several of its locations, spokesman Matt Mattei said Sunday evening. Seven remained hospitalized at the Danville facility, with five in critical condition and two in fair condition. Five others had been treated and released.
Three patients were treated at other Geisinger hospitals and released.
The house fire in Nescopeck began in the early morning hours of Aug. 5 in a two-story home. Among those killed were three children who were 5, 6 and 7 years old, according to Pennsylvania State Police. Among the firefighters who responded was Harold Baker, who lost relatives in the blaze.
Community members Saturday rallied together to offer what they could at Intoxicology Department, the bar in Berwick.
Brent Beckley, also known as DJ Kaos, was playing music for the benefit, where nothing was “out of the ordinary.” People laughed, children joked around and eventgoers gathered at the dunking tank that was set up to help raise money for victims and their families, recalled Beckley, 32, of Minersville.
“Everyone was having fun,” he said.
Beckley was in the crowd, announcing raffle winners, with one of his daughters beside him when he heard a “thud.” He turned, saw the car hurtling toward the crowd and pushed back his daughter and two other children near him, he said.
The car struck him, he said.
“I didn’t really feel anything until I turned back around and I saw everything,” he said.
The scene was “too surreal” — shattered glass littered on the ground and people bleeding on the pavement, said Beckley, who suffered a broken hand, two broken ribs, a fractured collarbone and internal bruising.
Intoxicology Department posted a statement on Facebook saying it would be closed until further notice: “Today was an absolute tragedy. Please respect our privacy while we grieve and try to process the events that occurred. Thank you.”
Sura Reyes had a history of violence with his mother. In 2020, he hit her face with her cellphone because she wouldn’t let him use the phone, the Press Enterprise reported, citing court records. He was put on probation.
On Saturday, he struck her with the front of his vehicle when he saw her outside after driving back from hitting the crowd, he told police.
A resident nearby, whom police identified as Robert Earl Seely, heard the crash and went to his yard.
“What are you doing?” Seely asked Sura Reyes when he saw him hitting a woman with a hammer, according to the police document.
In response, Sura Reyes said to “get back” while he held up the hammer, the document said. Seely then told his wife to call 911.
After Sura Reyes was detained, reporters recorded video of police escorting him early Sunday. Asked whether he had anything to say, he offered: “Sorry, I’m sorry.”
This is the man State Police say drove a car into the crowd of people at a fundraiser in Berwick for the victims of last Friday’s deadly fire in Nescopeck. He was later arrested at a home in Nescopeck where a woman was found dead. His name is being released shortly. pic.twitter.com/wgNk2gXgE8— Chelsea Strub (@chelseastrub) August 14, 2022