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Two or more gunmen opened fire after an argument at the hookah bar in Penn Hills

As many as 100 people crowded into a Penn Hills hookah bar when gunfire erupted, killing two people, police said Tuesday.

Nathaniel Smiley Jr., 44, of Pittsburgh got into an argument with an unknown man at Ballers Hookah Lounge and Cigar Bar around 2:50 a.m., Allegheny County police Lt. Venerando Costa said.

During the altercation, two or more people fired shots, Costa said. It is unclear whether the men fired a gun during the argument; A total of about seven to ten shots were fired from handguns.

The police found no weapons at the scene.

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office pronounced Smiley dead at 3 a.m., Stephanie Stuart, a 28-year-old McKeesport woman who was also at the bar that night, was pronounced dead a minute before Smiley.

“What actually happened inside is still unclear,” Costa told reporters on Tuesday. “We want to talk to anyone who was inside at the time of the shooting.”

The crowd at the Laketon Road bar that night is estimated at between 50 and 100 customers, Costa said. The bar has outdoor cameras, but police say there are no videos showing the shooting.

The bar owners, whom police did not name, are cooperating with authorities, Costa said.

The bar was operating without a liquor license, authorities said Monday. Costa called Ballers an “out-of-hours establishment,” which would normally be busy after 1 a.m.

Although there was no “set age limit” at the bar, most of the patrons that night were over 30, he said.

Four men and three women, whom police also did not name, were injured in Sunday’s shooting, Costa said. All are expected to survive.

“Two people were killed after an argument that took place in a bar,” Costa said. “And there is no evidence at this time that the victims initiated the altercation.”

Costa forwarded questions about alcohol to the Public Prosecution Service on Tuesday.

State Liquor Control Board spokesman Shawn Kelly confirmed the Penn Hills bar was not licensed by the agency.

“To legally provide alcohol in Pennsylvania, an establishment must be licensed,” Kelly said.

The state police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement is also investigating the licensing issue, a spokesperson at their Harrisburg office confirmed Tuesday.

Located near Frankstown Road, the bar is in what has long been known as the Laketon Professional Building 2.

Laketon Professional Buildings 1 and 2 have been owned by a limited liability company, Bucci Ventura Mullen, since November 2022, according to Allegheny County real estate records.

Anthony Bucci co-founded a staffing agency whose website lists the same Morningside address as that LLC, State Department records show. Bucci did not respond to an email or phone call seeking comment on Tuesday.

Penn Hills police had responded to two recent shootings, but county police said they were not fatal.

Penn Hills Police and Penn Hills Mayor Pauline Calabrese did not respond to emails or phone calls requesting comment.

Justin Vellucci is a TribLive reporter covering crime and public safety in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. He was a freelance journalist for many years and a former reporter for the Asbury Park (NJ) Press. He worked as a general assignment reporter at the Trib from 2006 to 2009, returning in 2022. He can be reached at [email protected].